Thousands join call for no change in status of family


Thousands of people have written to an Oireachtas committee to argue against changing the constitutional status of the family.

The committee chairman, Fianna Fáil TD Denis O'Donovan, said that some 60 per cent of almost 6,000 submissions were opposed to any change in the constitutional definition of the family and against any form of recognition for gay relationships.

"I personally did not expect that number of submissions. We are not out with any particular agenda as part of the overall review," he said.

The committee is examining Articles 41 and 42 of the Constitution, which deal with the family. It plans to invite up to 50 individuals and groups to make oral submissions to a two-week series of public hearings next month.

Many submissions are at odds with the position of the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who has indicated a willingness to recognise homosexual relationships for tax and inheritance purposes.

While Mr Ahern has said that marriage for gay couples is a long way off, he believes that same-sex couples should be treated more fairly within the tax and legal codes.

Other submissions argued for changes to protect the rights of fathers and the rights of unmarried parents. For example, the Dads Against Discrimination group said that the Constitution should place equal importance on both parents.

According to a summary of the submissions, the Conference of Religious in Ireland, which represents Catholic congregations, argued that the definition of the family should stay as it is and should be reserved to heterosexual unions.

The anti-abortion Mother and Child Campaign claims to have sent thousands of signed copies of its submission to the committee. Members of the Pro-Life Campaign and the Family Solidarity group also made submissions arguing against recognition for same-sex unions.

However, many individuals and groups argued for official recognition of such relationships.

Former taoiseach John Bruton made a submission in which he disagreed with the view that marriage was no longer the norm and that other types of partnerships should be recognised in the Constitution.

Mr Bruton said that the State should continue to promote marriage as the norm towards which people would aspire, but it should do so in a manner which respected other situations.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said that the Constitution should be changed to grant equal status and rights to all natural parents and children, regardless of the marital status of the parents.