Paula Fagan tells Citizens' Assembly she will be a legal stranger to her son when he turns 18

Paula Fagan was among the speakers who shared their personal stories to the Citizens' Assembly on gender equality during the weekend.

Paula Fagan
Image: Babs Daly

During the second meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality, CEO of LGBT Ireland Paula Fagan spoke to the assembly about the issues facing LGBT+ families.

Ms Fagan shared her personal story saying her and her partner Denise, who have been together for 17 years, “planned our family together and were lucky enough to have our gorgeous boys, who are the centre of our world”.

Ms Fagan said that Article 41.3.1 of the Constitution, which protects the rights of the family and marriage “against attack”, does not recognise hers.

“Unlike other families, myself and Denise are not both recognised as legal parents of our children.

“Only one of us is legally recognised as a parent,” Ms Fagan told the Assembly.

She spoke about the legal, practical and emotional challenges this presents giving the example of how every time they renew their son’s passports, “one of us must sign a legal affidavit to swear that we are a lone parent.

“This is despite being civilly partnered to each other, living together for 15 years, and raising our boys together since they were born,” she said.

Although Ms Fagan has legal guardianship over her sons, this runs out when they turn 18.

“As a parent, you’re a parent to your child all of their lives. With my child now turning 14 we are facing in four years time if the law is not changed my eldest son will become a stranger to me in the eyes of the law when he turns 18.

“As the law stands in Ireland, we have no way for both of us to establish a legal relationship with our children.”

Thousands of families are in a similar situation and remain unprotected in a changing Ireland, she warned the Citizens’ Assembly.

Ms Fagan spoke about LGBT Ireland’s advocacy and how they are now working with the Government to bring in legislation that recognises families like her own.

In May 2020, Sections 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act will come into effect.

Recent proposed changes to the Act have meant that some same-sex parents would have both their names on their child’s birth certificate. But not all families – families using surrogacy and other forms of assisted reproduction or those led by two male parents are not included.

Following calls for better protection and equal rights for families led by same-sex parents and families using surrogacy and other forms of assisted reproduction, the Government have appointed a special rapporteur to look at the issues and report back early in the year.

In November 2019, Simon Harris stated, “It is clear our legislation still needs to evolve. When I met with LGBT families a number of weeks ago, they pointed out the impractical realities of our current laws and while we know some of their issues will be addressed through the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill, there are areas that require some consideration.”

The assembly will again discuss gender equality at the Grand Hotel, Malahide, Dublin, on March 21-22.

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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