Happy Father’s Day to all the amazing fathers, father figures, step-dads, guncles and the countless women who do the job of two parents on their own.
I’m Dónal Traynor, together with my partner, Joseph Bowlby, we are the adoptive fathers of two amazing boys, Callum and TJ, who came to live with us when they were aged five and six, and who are now 14 and almost 13. Parenting is hard work, relentless and great fun. Gay fathers, raising children with their partners, or on their own, are still very rare in Ireland, and if the government has its way, it will stay that way.
I have two wishes that I want to put to our government, both focusing on the needs and rights of children.
The Children and Family Relationship Act and The Assisted Human Reproduction Bill, when enacted will fail to offer protection to hundreds of children born to same-sex couples in Ireland. Children conceived abroad or through home insemination will continue to be denied the protection of their families, as only the woman who gave birth to them will be legally recognised parent.
Ironically, children born through donor sperm or eggs to our straight siblings are assumed to be the biological child of both parents, so they automatically enjoy the legal protection of both parents.
Their partners, even if they donated the egg and therefore the biological mothers, will not be recognised as the child’s mother. The mother who didn’t give birth to the child can opt, after two years, to apply for guardianship, but guardianship ceases once the child turns 18, so this mother will again be a legal stranger to the baby she raised to childhood and the child she raised to adulthood.
Our government seems happy to discriminate against these kids, as no effort, in spite of intense lobbying by LGBT Ireland and others, has been made to remedy this. Ironically, children born through donor sperm or eggs to our straight siblings are assumed to be the biological child of both parents, so they automatically enjoy the legal protection of both parents.
Children born to men, via surrogacy, will also not be recognised unless the surrogacy happened in Ireland and no fees, other than legitimate medical expenses change hands. Most of the children born to surrogates that I know were born in the USA.
Usually, the surrogate uses donor egg so has no biological link to the baby, but under Irish law, she is that baby’s mother, and if she is married, her husband is presumed to be that baby’s father. Once again, our inadequate laws will fail to protect Irish children.
We need to stop tying our children up in legal knots to pander to the bigots in right-wing religious groups. Our children are as entitled to the same protection in law as we can now enjoy through marriage (if that’s your thing!). People will continue to form families in a way that feels right for them.
My second wish is that adoption laws are changed further. Children can now be adopted from care, but only if the child is in care for three years and placed with the people who wish to adopt the child for at least 18 months. This means in all practicality, that only foster carers can adopt children from care.
If a child is in care and is never going to be reunified with their birth parents, why deny these children a second chance of having a family of their own?
If a child is in care and is never going to be reunified with their birth parents, why deny these children a second chance of having a family of their own? In addition, for some extraordinary reason, it takes three more years before the Adoption Authority of Ireland will finalise the adoption.
I am sure that these regulations and procedures made some sense to someone along the way, but whoever drafted them seems to have limited understanding of the developing brain of a child and its need to feel secure, attached and having a sense of belonging.
I don’t feel that gay men or anyone else has the right to be a parent, but many of us have so much to offer children, surely we have the right to be considered as potential parents, when so many children will remain in care, without a second chance of finding a safe, loving and nurturing family.
For more information on LGBT+ parenting, see lgbtireland.ie
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