Same-sex parents to get new rights
JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter is planning new laws to allow children in same-sex families to form a "legal connection" with their non-biological parent.
Reforms will also be made to guardianship, custody and access laws and to ensure maintenance and inheritance rights for the children of civil partners.
The question of whether the Constitution should be changed to provide for same-sex marriage will shortly be considered by the Constitutional Convention.
Mr Shatter made the commitment to boost the rights of children living in same-sex families at a meeting of Fine Gael's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Group on Tuesday night.
Two years ago same-sex couples were allowed to enter civil partnerships under laws that have granted gay and lesbian couples marital-style rights, which fall short of the full, constitutional protection afforded to heterosexual marriages.
But children were omitted from the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act which has seen almost 900 civil partnerships already take place.
Mr Shatter said "one of the great gaps" in the 2010 law was the failure to specifically address issues relating to parental rights of gay couples and the legal relationship of gay parents to children being parented by them in circumstances in which the parents are parties to a civil partnership or individuals cohabiting in an intimate and committed relationship.
"I am acutely aware that we need to reform family law to secure equal citizenship for lesbian and gay parents and the best interests of their children," he said.
"This reforming focus must also ensure that children in lesbian or gay family units are able to form a legal connection with their non-biological parent and that kindred relationships flow from such legal connection."
The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) has welcomed what it describes as the "comprehensive" parenting reforms for lesbian and gay families which will be set out in a dedicated Family Relationships and Children's Bill next year.
GLEN's Brian Sheehan said: "Civil partnerships have almost all the rights and obligations of marriage, but without the status, recognition and constitutional protection.
"One of the most urgent issues for these parents is the lack of legal certainty for their families and the lack of protection and security for their children and these will transform their status."