Ireland refuses legal recognition of lesbian marriage

Anthony Cuesta | December 19, 2006

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

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

According to Reuters, the couple argued that not recognizing their marriage breached their rights under the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Justice Elizabeth Dunne rejected that argument on Thursday, saying in a written statement that she hoped lawmakers would address "the undoubted hardship caused to people in relationships of cohabitation sooner rather than later," reports the Associated Press.

Gilligan and Zappone told the AP they were disappointed with the judgment but needed to read it in detail before deciding whether to appeal to the Supreme Court, Ireland's ultimate arbiter on constitutional matters.

"We do believe, and we know, that Ireland will be a land of justice and of equality for all human beings, and we believe, and we know, that the Irish constitution does protect our rights as it does all others," said Zappone, who is a member of Ireland's government-appointed Human Rights Commission, reports the AP.

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.

"Undoubtedly people in the position of the plaintiffs, be they same sex couples or heterosexual couples, can suffer great difficulty or hardship in the event of the death or serious illness of their partners," Dunne said in her judgement, reports Reuters.

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 in the UK did so in Northern Ireland. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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