June 9, 2012

IconZappone and Gilligan: A fresh fight for marriage

On Wednesday, Ireland’s Senator Katherine Zappone and Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan announced a fresh fight to have their Canadian marriage recognized at home.

The new case, to be heard in the High Court, is to test the provisions of the Civil Registration Act 2004. This was the first act to define in Irish Statue that marriage is between a man and woman only.

Zappone and Gilligan will also challenge the Civil Partnership Act 2010, which prohibits civilly partnered couples from marrying.

It’s important to note that the Irish constitution doesn’t have a definition for marriage and references only a commitment to equality for all citizens.

This is a group of citizens who earlier in the year voted 73% in favour of same sex marriage in a Red C poll.

Senator Katherine Zappone, a public policy consultant, and Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan, an academic, married in British Columbia, Canada in 2003.

Together for 30 years, they, like many other same sex couples married abroad, are still waiting for equality.

Last October, the couple launched a Supreme Court appeal against the Civil Registration Act 2004. They were unsuccessful.

Originally, wishing to appeal this decision, they now think it better to start a fresh case including the Civil Partnership Act 2010 in their challenge.

Senator Zappone said, “It became clear to us that, even if we succeeded with our original case, the provisions within the Civil Registration Act and the Civil Partnership Act would remain. So it became imperative to shelve our Supreme Court appeal and proceed to challenge this Act before the High Court.”

Missing Pieces

Marriage Equality’s 2011 report Missing Pieces found over 160 differences between Civil Partnership and Civil Marriage, including issues around immigration, finance and family rights. 

It’s the lack of family rights that raise the most eyebrows.

Under the Civil Partnership Act in Ireland, children can continue to be adopted by gay people, but still only singly. Where this brings danger to children, is where the ‘adoptive parent’ dies, the other parent is instantly cut off in the legal sense. Moreover, the child himself or herself has no connection with the surviving parent and is cast adrift.

What is this but child abuse?

If I look at my relationship with my parents, I am far far closer to my father. I haven’t seen my mother in a few years and yet I see my dad every day, he is my world. How would I have stood as a child if I were adopted to gay parents in such a case? If my mother were to die, I would lose not only her but my dad too. I would be losing my world, but not only that, but also the only person who could support me and get me through such a devastating time.

That’s not to mention hospital visitation rights.

For a country whose constitution gives commitment to equality for all citizens, I struggle to see why such legal challenges must exist.

Many in Ireland comment on Zappone and Gilligan’s case as a waste of time. After all, it took Lydia Foy and David Norris to go to the European Court of Human Rights in both their equality cases. The Irish Courts have never broken new ground in relation to LGBT rights on their own.

Let’s hope Senator Katherine Zappone and Dr. Ann Gilligan can prove them wrong.


Images by Jenn and Tony Bot via Flickr, Marriage Equality Ireland and

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