Gay couple in Supreme Court over right to wed


THE APPEAL by a lesbian couple against a finding that they do not have a right, under the Constitution, to marry here will be heard by the Supreme Court next month.

Senator Katherine Zappone, a public policy consultant, and Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, an academic, have been together for some 30 years and married in British Columbia, Canada, in 2003.

In proceedings against the Revenue Commissioners and the State, they claim that their rights are being breached by not being allowed to marry or have their Canadian marriage recognised as valid here.

They are appealing the 2006 landmark High Court judgment of Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne. She ruled that marriage is understood, under the 1937 Constitution, to be confined to people of the opposite sex. The appeal is to be heard on June 19th.

Last October, the Supreme Court refused to let the couple amend their grounds of appeal to include a claim that a section of the Civil Registration Act 2004 is unconstitutional.

The proposed new grounds for appeal “could affect a significant number of other persons” and have “significant public policy consequences”, the court said.

Ms Justice Fidelma Macken said arguments in relation to the constitutionality of section 2.2 of the Civil Registration Act 2004 were not fully raised before the High Court.

The 2004 legislation included a prohibition of same-sex marriage and stated there was an “impediment to a marriage” if “both parties are of the same sex”, she said.

Before such an issue could come before the Supreme Court, it had to be “fully ventilated” at High Court level.