Referendum needed to change definition of ‘family’ in Constitution

Harris: ’Men loving men,women loving women no less a family than mine’

‘There are many types of family today that I recognise as families, which unfortunately Bunreacht na hÉireann does not,’ Minister for Health Simon Harris told the Seanad on Tuesday. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

‘There are many types of family today that I recognise as families, which unfortunately Bunreacht na hÉireann does not,’ Minister for Health Simon Harris told the Seanad on Tuesday. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

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Minister for Health Simon Harris has called for a referendum to change the definition of family in the Constitution.

Mr Harris said that “men loving men and women loving women are no less a family than the family in which I live or that which I hope to create”.

He said “this is an area that needs careful consideration and work, but the idea that a mum or dad bringing up a son or daughter, or a grandmother bringing up three or four grandkids for years, effectively raising them, are not recognised as families because of our Constitution’s outdated understanding of what constitutes a family is something that we should examine.”

The Minister added: “There are many types of family today that I recognise as families, which unfortunately Bunreacht na hÉireann does not.”

Mr Harris was speaking during a Seanad debate on the Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Bill which amends drafting errors in legislation three years ago.

The Bill fixes the errors and will finally allow same sex parents register both their names on their child’s birth certificate. The Bill also corrects errors in relation to assisted human reproduction and will ban anonymous sperm and egg donation in fertility treatment.

It also allows children born through donor-assisted human reproduction access to their genetic heritage, and details of the donor, once they turn 18 from a national register to be established, of donor-conceived children.

Mr Harris said they were fixing a technical error in the 2015 Act to ensure it can be fully implemented in the autumn.

He said they would then move on to the “substantive and important debate on legislation we need to pass in respect of assisted human reproduction”.

Assisted human reproduction

Fianna Fáil Senator Diarmuid Wilson welcomed as vital the access to information for children born through assisted human reproduction.

He said society had only recently woken up “to the trauma suffered by many adopted people through not knowing where they came from”.

Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield said he would not have repeatedly highlighted the errors in the 2015 Act if the Department of Health “had not consistently missed its own deadlines and, quite frankly, often been evasive on each occasion we sought to hold it to account”.

He cited an incident where a legal parent and child were in an accident and “while the parent was incapacitated the non-biological parent could not give emergency medical consent”.

“The longer these rights are delayed the more incidents like this there will be,” he said.

Independent Senator Ronan Mullen said “the child’s best interests are supposed to be paramount, but time and again we see that they only come into it after adults’ aspirations have been facilitated by politicians”.

But he said there was a “complete absence of debate about the morality of many of these modern techniques designed to secure and procure children for adults to bring up and the herd-like rush to a right-on, politically correct, slavish obedience to a new set of moral norms”.

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