'Unacceptable': David Norris addresses bill neglecting same-sex parents

David Norris addresses the Parental Leave and Benefits Bill which could leave same-sex parents without financial provisions.

David Norris looking angry as he addresses the Seanad about the Parental Leave bill

David Norris’ speech during the discussion on the Parental Leave and Benefits Bill addresses the lack of provision for same-sex couples who adopt or have a child by IVF, with the senator saying that with regret he would vote against the Bill because of this. The issue particularly affects couples who are seeking recognition for both parents to be recognised as the child’s legal parents. 

Speaking on October 9 to the Seanad, Norris stated that the bill dealing with parental leave was “unacceptable.” In the draft of the Bill, he said, “it was suggested that there would be a resolution to the issue of gay male couples not being entitled to adoptive leave or benefit. 

“As it stands, only single male adopters or women can avail of this. This is not acceptable.” 

Previously, according to a press release from the Department of Justice and Equality, it was stated that the Bill would resolve these issues for same-sex couples. 

“[But now], the relevant section has disappeared. I have correspondence from people who have written repeatedly to the Department of Justice and Equality without receiving a single reply. Not once have they received a reply.”

Norris reminds the Seanad that it is three years since the Minster promised that this issue would be resolved by the end of the year (2016). He speaks about the situation on the ground, and whom the legislation affects.

“My correspondents state that the current lack of provision makes it less likely that male same-sex couples will adopt as the cost is increased hugely if one partner must give up their job to care for the child, rather than being able to avail of adoptive leave, and would also potentially face a loss of future earnings if unable to re-enter the workforce at the same level.”

He continued with a story from some of his correspondents. They – and many others – will be less likely or unable to adopt until legislation allowing for one parent to take longer leave is passed.

“As children being adopted from the US often have developmental or addiction issues, we would definitely want and need to have one of us full-time with any child we adopt for longer than two weeks (the current extent of parental leave). We would want to act in the best interests of that child and provide full-time care from one parent. 

The shifting timelines make it difficult to plan and we have already ourselves delayed moving forward with the adoption for a number of years, pending same-sex marriage legislation, permission for same-sex couples to adopt jointly, and now this. [By the time it passes] we may be too old to adopt. 

It will be really difficult to go into a situation where we tell a birth mother that the income of her child’s new family will probably be halved after the adoption [because one of us will have to quit our job to care for the child] or that we will have to enter into a legal battle with my employer in order to get time off.

Calling attention to the fact that this did not only affect fathers, Norris included a poem submitted by two women whom the lack of legislation also affects. Written by Ranae von Meding, it has gone viral:

Considered a single mother and yet,

Our girls have two parents. And don’t you forget…

That we voted for marriage equality.

But what we have is not equal. Not really you see.

It’s a double standard and every way we lose. 

All we want is fairness – yet we can’t even choose,

To have both our kids parents recognised in law. 

We are Irish citizens – and yes we are both Mná.

Something so simple, a passport application.

Should have been easy, but for a small stipulation.

That I sign away my wife as though she doesn’t exist.

My entire life with a single signature dismissed.

My family is equal though my country doesn’t see.

All the hurt and humiliation it’s been causing me. 

And countless others who are in the same boat.

Come on Ireland we can do better. Didn’t we already vote?

Norris ended the speech on an impassioned note, calling for the Minister to act:

“I would say to the Minister of State, “Come on, Minister, you can do better.” With the greatest regret, because I support parental leave, I will be calling for a vote, and if I am allowed a vote, I will be voting against this Bill. It is time that manners were put on the Department and that it lived up to its responsibilities to look after all the children. It is not in the Constitution but it is in the Proclamation that we cherish all the children of the nation equally.”

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