When Will Marriage Equality Really Mean Equality For Same-Sex Parents?
A referendum on 22 May 2015 amended the Constitution of Ireland to provide that marriage is recognized irrespective of the sex of the partners. On the 16th November, 2015 same-sex marriage became legal in Ireland and we changed history. But, while we voted and celebrated marriage equality in Ireland it is unfortunately still not equal.
In recent times, Ranae von Meding and her wife Audrey have opened up and told the world their story.
Audrey and Ranae are mums to Ava aged 22 months. Ava’s mums chose a process called Shared Motherhood (Reciprocal IVF) where Audrey’s eggs were used and Ranae carried their baby.
“We decided to use Audrey’s eggs and for me to carry the baby because we felt that would be a way where we would both be very involved. One of us would be the birth mother and one of us would be the biological mother”
Ranae is now three months pregnant with their second child. Using Reciprocal IVF this time around too.
“It worked so well the last time we figured we would do it this way again. I’m (Ranae) the one who really wanted to be pregnant again to breastfeed again and Audrey just wanted to be a mom, which worked really well”
Ireland does not offer Reciprocal IVF. It is seen as surrogacy and the laws are in a very grey area. So, Audrey and Ranae travelled to Spain where this form of IVF is commonplace. Their first round of IVF was unsuccessful. Ranae returned to Spain alone for a second round and this time it was successful. Two weeks later, they found out they were expecting. But what should have been the happiest time of their lives was tainted by the fact that Audrey would not have any legal rights over their daughter. Should anything happen to Ranae, Audrey would have no legal stance over Ava.
Same-sex parenting in Ireland
In Ireland at the moment, in a female same-sex relationship the woman who physically gives birth to a baby, is recorded as the mother. Regardless of how the child was conceived. In Audrey and Ranae’s case, as Ava’s birth mother Ranae is the only parent on her birth certificate and the only parent to hold any legal rights over Ava.
“The only option is to put the birth mother in the mother column and father unknown. The way the new legislation is proposed is that there will be a third column for the third parent which will be gender neutral”
When Ava was born, what should have been a very special day going to register her birth was heartbreaking for Audrey. It was for her, the first time she felt was not recognized as one of Ava’s parents. Apart from the discrimination, Audrey feels and a lack of recognition for Audrey as Ava’s mum it could also potentially have some impact on some serious issues regarding Ava.
If Ava needed any medical treatment and for whatever reason Ranae was incapacitated, Audrey would legally not be allowed to give consent. If Ranae died, Audrey would have no legal rights to their daughter. An absolutely terrifying thought.
For any medical issues, trips to A&E or vaccinations Audrey legally cannot give consent. For school trips or any other place where parental consent is a need, Audrey is again discriminated against.
“On Ava’s playschool forms all we could put Audrey down as was a responsible adult”
Audrey could apply for guardianship, but this is not something any mother should have to do to gain legal rights to her own child. The rule at the moment is that a partner must be co-habiting with the child for two years before they can be granted guardianship.
“There is an inconsistency and discrimination at the moment within Dolphin House with some families being granted guardianship before the two-year rule where and others have been refused”
Legislation was passed in 2015 to allow for all different family types to be recognized. It also allowed for two parents regardless of their gender to be on their child’s birth certificate. The legislation is there but it is yet to be commenced. Three years is beyond long enough for these parents and vulnerable children to have to wait.
What are the government doing about it?
Simon Harris has assured he intends to go to cabinet in the very near future with a hope to bring about a legislative solution to hopefully try and pass by the summer recess.
As most of us felt we voted for marriage equality evidently for a lot of Irish families this still not the case. Ranae and Audrey’s story is unfortunately just one of many in Ireland at the moment. Legislation needs to change for the safety and protection of these little ones and for the security and reassurance for both of their parents.
“We don’t want any more empty words from Simon Harris we want change and we want action”
Ranae and Audrey also hope for a change in legislation beyond their story. They hope there will be additional legislation to include all LGBTQ families soon after.
“The current law which we are waiting for will only include female couples who have used a fertility clinic, in Ireland. So, despite how far we have come we still have further to go for equality for ALL families in Ireland. We think we will be okay and still included in the new legislation but because our clinic was not in Ireland we may not be covered”
What can you do?
The main thing we can do is to put pressure on our local TDs to bring this to Simon Harris as a matter of urgency. A simple letter or email to your local TD could make all the difference.
Written by Laura Doyle. Laura is a 29-year old mother of four who blogs at Love, Life and Little Ones.