Former judge in call to address legal position of children of same-sex couples

Catherine McGuinness speaks at public lecture marking decriminalisation of homosexuality

Former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times


Aine McMahon

Former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness has called for the Government to address the issue of children of parents within same sex relationships.

Ms McGuinness was speaking at a public lecture titled ‘Twenty years since decriminalisation; what next for same sex couples?’.

She said that, from a legal perspective, the law regarding the position of children of couples in same sex relationships needed to be addressed and that “it shouldn’t be left as it is on a case-by-case basis before the courts”.

Ms McGuinness is chancellor of the united Church of Ireland diocese of Dublin and Glendalough and a patron of Changing Attitudes Ireland.

“It is by no means rare for gays, lesbians and transgender people to find the Church of Ireland a cold enough church for them particularly those who wish to exercise ministry within that church,” she said.

She noted the division that has arisen in the Church of Ireland on issues of human sexuality, particularly on the ordination of gay people.

“As people who have been pushed to the outside in many of our church structures – this is the kind of attitude that needs to be changed and the type of sectarianism we need to move on from,” she said.

Ms McGuinness said it was not all a negative picture regarding sectarianism and noted the different attitude among young people to gay rights. “The change in atmosphere over the last 20 years is remarkable” she said.

Senator David Norris, who was unable to attend due to his cancer treatment, received an award for his tireless work in promoting gay rights.

Co-founder of Changing Attitudes Ireland, Dr Richard O’Leary said the term “polyester Protestant” controversially used by Archbishop Michael Jackson last week was a “red herring” and shifted focus away from the issue of gay people within the Protestant faith.

Ms McGuinness recalled the General Synod discussions regarding the ordination of women and joked that she threatened to leave the Church of Ireland and “join the Methodists” if it didn’t happen.

She compared the battle to have women ordained to the issue of the ordination of gay people: “There is a long, hard road ahead but change is possible,” she said.