Analysis: Surrogacy and adoption rights will not be affected by referendum result

Minister accuses No side of trying toconfuse voters with irrelevant issues

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald says: ‘The clear strategy of the No side is to try and confuse people by bringing emotive but unrelated matters such as parentage and surrogacy into the debate.’ Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald says: ‘The clear strategy of the No side is to try and confuse people by bringing emotive but unrelated matters such as parentage and surrogacy into the debate.’ Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

 

The Referendum Commission has said that surrogacy and adoption rights will not be affected by the same-sex marriage referendum, regardless of the result.

For months of the campaign the No side has played on the two issues to win over the ever- growing “I don’t know” category in the debate.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald says: “The referendum is solely about whether we allow two people of the same sex to marry. However, the clear strategy of the No side is to try and confuse people by bringing emotive but unrelated matters such as parentage and surrogacy into the debate.”

Regardless of whether a Yes or No vote prevails, a couple – straight or gay – can use a surrogate until the Government changes the law.

And if the vote is successful or if it fails, a gay or lesbian couple can now and will continue to be able to adopt a child.

So why has the No campaign been so successful in bringing two completely irrelevant topics into the debate?

Because it has been allowed to by the Yes side.

Renua leader Lucinda Creighton said this was a consequence of the Government’s “cynical” decision to remove surrogacy laws from the Children and Family Relationships Bill.

She said the issue was postponed because it knew it would it be linked to the same-sex marriage referendum debate.

Creighton said: “It is cynical. Everything this Government does is cynical and is all about trying to stifle debate rather than encourage it and to prevent people from having a full and open discussion.” Nine days from polling day and the two sides are still debating the issues of surrogacy.

Despite the campaign being in flow for a number of months, politicians proposing a Yes vote have been unable to effectively counter the argument. Senior Government figures insisted that their message on the irrelevance of surrogacy in the debate was being drowned out. There is also an element of concern that dismissing the argument would be disrespectful to the many people who had raised questions about children.

Political commentator Stephen O’Byrnes said this was a surreal campaign because parties were allegedly in favour of the vote but were not out there campaigning. O’Byrnes said: “Does anybody believe that 165 TDs apart from [Independent TD] Mattie McGrath [who is voting no] are all in favour of same-sex marriage? I don’t believe it for a moment.

“But because of our PR system they will keep their mouths shut and will be concerned not to offend a segment of voters with an election less than 12 months away. It brings an air of unreality to whole campaign.”

Despite the fact that the majority of people and parties are believed to be in favour of the vote, the No side has been successful in sowing the seed of doubt in many minds.

The Mothers and Fathers Matter campaign said their issue lies with the timing of the referendum. Spokeswoman Louise Doris, who specialises in the area of surrogacy, said they were right to raise legitimate concerns.

She said: “The Government in the same year [they are] trying to redefine marriage through the marriage referendum, they have also introduced the Family and Children Relationships Act and they plan to legalise surrogacy.

“All of that could be a coincidence. Redefining marriage also does entail redefining the family.”

Fianna Fáil spokesman on justice Niall Collins said the No campaign had spun a “lie”, but one that had stuck in the minds of many voters.

The director of elections for the party, which is canvassing for a Yes vote, said they were bringing in “extraneous issues” about children, in particular in the area of surrogacy. Collins said: “Their campaign is one big lie. It is based on trying to create an emotional fear in people’s minds which is very corrosive to society.

“It is a big lie being peddled. When I explain to people that gay people can already adopt, already engage in foster care, that any issue of surrogacy and assisted reproduction are irrelevant, it turned a lot of Nos to Yes.”

Mother and Family Matters spokeswoman Margaret Hickey said: “The aim of the Yes side is to dismiss what you’re saying or say you are lying. People are aware that this is not about equality.”