Irish lesbians challenge marriage law in landmark case

Anthony Cuesta | October 05, 2006

Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan
DUBLIN — A lesbian couple in Ireland began a landmark court case on Tuesday to have their marriage recognized there.

According to Reuters UK, Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan, who married in Canada in 2003, are taking legal action after Irish Revenue Commissioners refused to recognize them as a couple for tax purposes.

Michael Collins, senior counsel for the pair, said told the Belfast Telegraph that they wanted the High Court to recognize the status of their marriage or allow them to marry in Ireland.

According to the Telegraph, Collins told Judge Elizabeth Dunne they are being discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender.

Reuters UK reports that same-sex partnerships and marriages currently have no legal status in Ireland although Justice Minister Michael McDowell said earlier this year the government would propose new laws recognizing same-sex couples in the next 12 months.

However, he said the legislation would fall short of allowing marriage.

Family law in predominantly Catholic Ireland, where homosexuality was illegal until 1993, has struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of social change heralded by more than a decade of rapid economic growth.

Supporters of Zappone and Gilligan told Reuters UK that the couple�s case highlighted the need for laws to be updated.

"The constitutional rights that we in Ireland cherish, such as the right to equality and marriage, and property and family rights, continue to be denied to certain groups of people living in the state," Green Party spokesman Ciaran Cuffe told Reuters UK. "Furthermore, in denying same sex couples these rights, Ireland is in breach of the rights to privacy, marriage and non-discrimination under the European Convention on Human Rights."

The Irish Examiner reports that on Tuesday, Zappone spoke ahead of the hearing, insisting her marriage should be seen as valid in Ireland.

�We are most appreciative that the High Court is going to be hearing the arguments. We are married, happily married, living in a lifelong monogamous partnership,� she said.

Reuters UK reports that if the legislation proposed by McDowell is passed, the changes would bring Ireland in line with the United Kingdom, which introduced civil partnerships late last year. The first female couple to tie the knot did so in Northern Ireland. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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