Saturday 24 March 2018

'No' side warns adoption rules will be changed if vote passed

Legal opinion: Senior counsel Michael Collins
Legal opinion: Senior counsel Michael Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Passing the same-sex marriage referendum would undermine any ability to lawfully distinguish between gay and heterosexual couples for purposes such as adoption, according to two barristers.

The legal opinion was published by the conservative Catholic advocacy group The Iona Institute, which is campaigning for a 'No' vote.

It commissioned the lawyers to examine the impact of the proposed constitutional amendment.

Michael Collins SC and Paul Brady BL concluded that it would become constitutionally more difficult to reflect in law a view that married men and women are different from two married people of the same sex in matters concerning the raising and welfare of children.

This would include the adoption and fostering of children, regulating surrogacy and regulating assisted human reproduction.

The legal opinion comes just days after the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, said it was a "fact of nature" that same sex couples were "fundamentally and objectively different" from the sexual union of a man and a woman.

Mr Collins and Mr Brady were asked if it would be constitutionally permissible for future laws to give more favourable treatment to married couples comprising a man and a woman in the areas of adoption, fostering, surrogacy and assisted human reproduction.

In each case the barrister expressed the view that such favourable treatment would not be possible if the amendment is passed.

In a statement, the Iona Institute said the legal opinion it commissioned did not express any views on the merits of the constitutional amendment and was confined to an analysis of its legal implications.

It said the conclusions arrived at in the legal opinion were "very significant for the current debate".

"The recently passed Children and Family Relationships Act permits same-sex couples to adopt and use assisted human reproduction on the same terms as married men and women despite the fact that two men or two women can never give a child a mother and a father," the statement said.

"Given what the opinion says about the legal implications of the amendment for future laws dealing with such matters, it should now be clear that the amendment, if passed, will make it much harder for a future Government to reverse those aspects of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015."

The 'Yes Equality' group said the opinion "pre-dates constitutional protections for the rights of children in relation to adoption, guardianship, custody and access issues". They welcomed the idea of "prohibiting discrimination against married lesbian and gay couples".

Irish Independent

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