The Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2021 has passed through all stages of the Oireachtas, marking a historic moment for male same-sex couples who are considering adoption in Ireland who have been unable to get adoptive leave up to this point.
Due to legal loopholes and oversights in legislation such as the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017 and the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, many same-sex parents were shut out from receiving the same rights as other families in Ireland. The introduction of the Parents’ Leave and Benefit Bill in 2019 further enforced these restrictions with male same-sex couples being prevented from receiving adoptive leave and other such benefits.
Under the Parents’ Leave and Benefit Bill 2019, employed mothers or single fathers can avail of 24 weeks of adoptive leave along with the associated benefit. Once the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2021 has been enacted, it will ensure all adopting couples are able to choose who should take the leave as well as provide the parent who did not receive adoptive leave access to paternity leave.
As stated on Gov.ie, the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2021 provides:
- An additional three weeks of paid Parents’ Leave and Benefit to each parent to be taken in the first two years after the birth or adoptive placement of a child.
- All adopting couples will be able to choose which parent may avail of adoptive leave, including male same-sex couples who were previously precluded due to an anomaly in legislation.
- Paternity Leave and Benefit will be made available to the parent who is not availing of adoptive leave.
Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, welcomed the Bill passing through all stages. He said, “We want to support parents in taking time away from work and having quality time with their children during those precious first two years, so I’m delighted to see this legislation pass through the Oireachtas.”
“COVID-19 has had a serious impact across society and working parents, especially those who have had children during the pandemic, often without the support of family and friends. The extension to parent’s leave and benefit is intended to provide them with an additional period of leave to spend with their child,” Minister O’Gorman further stated.
On the Legislation Programme Spring Session 2021, Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers shared, “In a further boost to young families, the Parents’ Leave and Benefit (Amendment) Bill will be prioritised this session. In addition to extending leave entitlements, this important bill will also provide adoptive leave and benefits for same-sex couples.”
LGBTQ+ people and organisations have been strongly advocating for amendments to the Parents’ Leave and Benefit Bill since 2019, as CEO of LGBT Ireland, Paula Fagan, said, “We simply cannot have a situation where gay fathers are not only discriminated against but also treated unequally to other parents.”
Despite previous provisions losing traction after being raised in the Dail, campaigner and youth worker Andrew Gannon and Sinn Féin TD for the Laois–Offaly constituency, Brian Stanley, continued fighting for the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Benefits Bill to ensure equality for all families in Ireland.
Gannon campaigned for an amendment to the Parents’ Leave and Benefit Bill after he and his partner started looking into the adoption process. When his job informed him that he could not avail of adoptive leave, the couple felt immense financial pressure in planning their life together.
In regards to the long term impact of being unable to avail of adoptive leave, Gannon shared, “[Work] could only offer me paternity leave, which is two weeks paid and then they could offer me as much time as I needed off as unpaid leave. Because of the fact that it will be unpaid leave, I also wouldn’t be entitled to any type of Government help because I’m voluntarily not in work. I basically have to save up six months money in advance on top of the thousands that it costs to adopt and basically just go unpaid.”
Gannon further shared, “We are getting married as well next year. So we just see money signs everywhere. On top of the adoption fees as well, we were like this is just not feasible. It kind of defeated us a little bit for a couple of weeks.”
While the lack of financial support deeply hurt the couple, Gannon expressed his gratitude for the way people came together to support them in their fight for change, including groups such as Wayfare Ireland and Youth Work Ireland Laois. He said, “I won’t lie. I nearly did let it defeat me. But I’m quite stubborn. My advice to even the kids we have in the youth group is, ‘Be the most stubborn adult you can possibly be ‘cause it will be the only thing that will get you there.’ If you want something, go for it.”
During his campaign, Gannon began reaching out to various TDs and researching into the current adoption laws, all of which eventually brought him into contact with Stanley. The youth worker said, “After I had read that it was brought up multiple years ago and there was still nothing done from it, it kind of annoyed me. So I went into the actual transcript and downloaded the snippets from that, I found little pieces all around the Internet, I built up a few bits and sent them all over to Brian being like, ‘I don’t understand why its been two and half years since this and absolutely nothing has been, there’s been no mention of it ever since’.”
“He was able to take all of that and put it to the Minister. A few days ago, I got a letter from Brian, in regards to the question we had asked and with the information we provided, it is something they are currently working on. The laws, at this point, are being changed around and it will be processed, it will be made into law,” Gannon continued.
Speaking about the couples’ reaction to the passing of the Bill, Gannon shared, “Both of us had a winge together. This was the last piece to the puzzle that we need for us to go ahead with adoption. It was overwhelming to say the least.”
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