Civil partnership Bill


Madam, - I am a 22-year-old man, living in Dublin and studying psychology in UCD. I was born in London, and have been living in Ireland for the past 13 years. I have a younger brother, Daragh, and two loving parents. My parents have been in a relationship for 28 years, since they were students.

In many ways my family are very regular; we have family dinners, we go to museums and we help each other out when the need arises. However, one detail leads to our family being treated dramatically differently. My parents are a lesbian couple called Ann and Bernadette, and in spite of their strong 28-year relationship, they are effectively treated as second-class citizens. I was conceived using sperm from a donor; there was no sexual relationship between Ann and the man who donated sperm, and I consider both Ann and Bernadette to be my parents, and both to be my mothers.

In many ways our family is lucky; my parents' relationship is healthy, neither of them has been seriously ill and we have not experienced major misfortunes. However, if this had not been the case, and the family unit had broken apart, there would have been significant and unfair legal and financial difficulties regarding both custody and access to us, their children, and regarding passing money and property to us. As Bernadette is not my biological mother, there would have been a particular issue for her. Even now, with both Daragh and myself being adults, we are denied inheritance and succession rights to Bernadette's property and wealth.

I am very pleased that the Government has begun the process of recognising my parents' same-sex relationship, and that their relationship will be given legal recognition for the first time. This will provide them with security for the future, as well as provisions for inheritance, succession, etc.

However, as a son of a same-sex couple, I am very concerned that the Heads of Bill do not provide for them as parents. Neglecting this area leaves my family in an extremely vulnerable position, and I would be left vulnerable should anything happen to Ann, my biological parent.

The complexity of this area requires that a delicate approach be taken, but I urge the Government to provide the means of extending the rights and responsibilities of biological parents to non-biological parents. Bernadette is my mother, in emotional, financial and caring terms. This needs to be recognised by the Government, and provisions be put in place for the protection of children brought up in the same context.

Not providing legal recognition for Bernadette as my mother leads to many problems. If I were to be admitted to hospital, she would not have the right to visit me as her son. She would not need to be consulted or informed of any medical decisions made. Similarly, should she be in such a situation I would not have the right to be consulted either. There are no provisions for inheritance either; in the event of her death she could not leave me anything as a family member, and as such it would be subject to unfair inheritance tax. From a social point of view, not recognising her status as my mother is simply fuelling the stigma that same-sex relationships and parents are second to heterosexual parents, an idea not supported by vast amounts of research. It is for these reasons that I urge the Government to take into account families like mine, who are not currently given the protection and respect by the State they deserve, and the children of same-sex couples who need to be protected by the Civil Partnership Bill. - Yours, etc,

CONOR PENDERGRAST, Stillorgan, Co Dublin.