LGBT rights in the Republic of Ireland
|LGBT rights in Ireland|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal status||Legal since 1993, with an equal age of consent|
|Gender identity/expression||Yes, transgender people can change legal gender by self-declaration since 2015|
|Military service||Allowed to serve openly|
|Discrimination protections||Sexual orientation protections (see below)|
|Same-sex marriage legal since 2015|
Attitudes in Ireland towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are regarded as among the most liberal in the world. Ireland is notable for its transformation from a country holding overwhelmingly conservative attitudes toward LGBT issues to one holding overwhelmingly liberal ones in the space of a generation. In May 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage on a national level by popular vote. The New York Times hailed the victory as putting Ireland at the "vanguard of social change". Since July 2015, transgender people in Ireland can self-declare their gender for the purpose of updating passports, driving licences, obtaining new birth certificates, and getting married. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal in the state. Government recognition of LGBT rights in Ireland has expanded greatly over the past two decades. Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993, and most forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation are now outlawed. Ireland also forbids incitement to hatred based on sexual orientation.
In 2015, a survey of 1,000 individuals in Ireland found that 78% of people are in support of same-sex marriage and 71% of people think that same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt. A 2013 survey showed that 73% of Irish people agreed that "same-sex marriage should be allowed in the Constitution". Earlier, a 2008 survey showed that 84% of Irish people support civil marriage or civil partnerships for same-sex couples, with 58% supporting full marriage rights in registry offices. The number who believe same-sex couples should only be allowed to have civil partnerships fell from 33% to 26%. A March 2011 The Sunday Times poll showed support for full civil marriage rights at 73%.
In July 2010, the Oireachtas passed the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010, recognising civil partnerships between same-sex couples. The bill passed all stages in the lower house (Dáil), without the need for a vote, and by a margin of 48 votes to 4 in the upper house Seanad (Senate). The bill was supported by all parties, although individual politicians have criticised the legislation. Since the civil partnership legislation has been fully enacted and implemented from the start of 2011, gay and lesbian couples have been able to register their relationship before a registrar. The bill was signed by President Mary McAleese on 19 July 2010. The Minister for Justice signed the commencement order for the act on 23 December 2010. The law then came into force on 1 January 2011. Due to the three-month waiting period for all civil ceremonies in Ireland, it had been expected that the first civil partnership ceremonies would take place in April. However, the legislation does provide a mechanism for exemptions to be sought through the courts, and the first partnership, which was between two men, was registered on 7 February 2011. The first publicly celebrated Irish civil partnership under the Act took place in Dublin on 5 April 2011. On 6 April 2015, the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2015 was signed into law, amending (among other acts) the Adoption Act 2010, to enable same-sex couples to jointly adopt children and stepchildren.
- 1 Decriminalisation
- 2 Recognition of same-sex relationships
- 3 Discrimination protections
- 4 Gender identity and expression
- 5 Adoption and parenting
- 6 Blood donation
- 7 Summary table
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Bibliography
Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalised in 1993. This was the result of a campaign by Senator David Norris and the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform which led to a ruling in 1988 that Irish laws prohibiting male homosexual activities were in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform was founded in the 1970s to fight for the decriminalisation of male homosexuality, its founding members including Senator Norris and future Presidents of Ireland Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson. Prior to 1993, certain laws dating from the nineteenth century rendered male homosexual acts illegal. The relevant legislation was the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, and the 1885 Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, both enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom before Irish independence, and having been repealed in England and Wales in 1967, Scotland in 1980 and Northern Ireland in 1982.
In 1983, David Norris took a case to the Supreme Court seeking to challenge the constitutionality of these laws but was unsuccessful. In its Norris v. Attorney General judgement (delivered by a 3–2 majority), the court referred to the "Christian and democratic nature of the Irish State" and argued that criminalisation served public health and the institution of marriage.
In 1988, Norris took a case to the European Court of Human Rights to argue that Irish law was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The court, in the case of Norris v. Ireland, ruled that the criminalisation of male homosexuality in the Republic violated Article 8 of the Convention, which guarantees the right to privacy in personal affairs. The Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) decriminalised male homosexuality five years later, when the Minister for Justice, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, in the 1992–1994 Fianna Fáil—Labour Coalition Government included decriminalisation with an equal age of consent (an equal age of consent was not required by the ECHR ruling) in a bill to deal with various sexual offences. None of the parties represented in the Oireachtas opposed decriminalisation. Coincidentally, the task of signing the bill decriminalising male homosexual acts fell to the then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, an outspoken defender of gay rights who as a barrister and Senior Counsel had represented Norris in his Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights case.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
Same-sex marriage is legal in Ireland, following approval of a referendum on 22 May 2015 which amended the Constitution of Ireland to provide that marriage is recognised irrespective of the sex of the partners. The measure was signed into law by President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins as the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland on 29 August 2015. The Marriage Act 2015, passed by the Oireachtas on 22 October 2015 and signed into law by the Presidential Commission on 29 October 2015, gave legislative effect to the amendment.
Background to legalisation of same-sex marriage
The Irish courts first dealt with the case of same-sex marriage in the case of Foy v. An t-Ard Chláraitheoir & Ors. In that case, Dr Foy was a transgender woman and sought a finding that she was born female but suffered from a congenital disability and claimed that the existing legal regime infringed her constitutional rights to marry a biological man. In support of her claim, she relied on case law from the ECHR. Judge McKechnie J noted that in Ireland it is crucial that parties to a marriage be of the opposite biological sex. The judge noted that Article 12 of the ECHR is equally predicated. Accordingly, he found that there was no sustainable basis for the applicant's submission that the law which prohibited her from marrying a party of the same biological sex as herself, was a violation of her constitutional right to marry. The judge concluded that the right to marry is not absolute and has to be evaluated in the context of several other rights including the rights of society. Therefore, the state is entitled to hold the view which is espoused and evident from its laws.
The Irish Supreme Court returned Foy's case to the High Court in 2005 to consider the issues in light of the Goodwin decision of the ECHR. Foy had also issued new proceedings in 2006 relying on a new ECHR Act, which gave greater effect to the European Convention on Human Rights in Irish law. The two cases were consolidated and were heard in April 2007. Dr Foy stressed the Goodwin decision where the European Court of Human Rights had found that the UK had breached the rights of a transgender woman, including her right to marry. McKechnie J was very reproachful of the Government in his judgment and asserted that, because there is no express provision in the Civil Registration Act, which was enacted after the Goodwin decision, it must be questioned as to whether the State deliberately refrained from adopting any remedial measures to address the ongoing problems. He emphasised that Ireland is very much isolated within the member states of the Council of Europe with regards to these matters. The judge concluded that by reason of the absence of any provision which would enable the acquired identity of Dr Foy to be legally recognised in this jurisdiction, the state is in breach of its positive obligations under Art 8 of the Convention. He issued a declaration that Irish law was incompatible with the ECHR and added that he would have found a breach of Dr Foy's right to marry as well if it had been relevant.
On 2 July 2013, the Constitutional Convention delivered the formal report to the Oireachtas, which had four months to respond.
Prior to the legalisation of same-sex marriage, civil partnership was permitted. The Civil Partnerships Bill 2009 was presented to the Cabinet on 24 June 2009 and was published on 26 June 2009. Although most LGBT advocacy groups cautiously welcomed the Government's legislation, there had been criticisms of the proposals. One major criticism stated that the legislation effectively enshrined discrimination in law insofar as separate contractual arrangements with greater privileges continued to exist for opposite-sex marriages concurrent to lesser arrangements for those wishing to take out civil partnerships. In particular, the denial of the right to apply to adopt to couples with a civil partnership had been cited as particularly discriminatory.
The bill passed all stages in Dáil Éireann on 1 July 2010 with cross-party support resulting in it passing without a vote, and passed by a margin of 48 votes to 4 in the Seanad (Senate) on 9 July 2010. It granted same-sex couples several rights then only granted to married couples, but did not recognise children raised by same-sex couples as being their children. Irish law only allowed gay people to adopt children as individuals, while allowing same-sex couples to jointly foster. It also granted cohabitants, both gay and straight, who have lived together for at least five years limited rights in an opt-out scheme where a former partner could apply to court on the breakdown of a relationship to make the other former partner provide financial support to him/her. The Bill was signed into law by President Mary McAleese on 19 July.
The ability to enter into a civil partnership ended on 16 November 2015.
Marriage Equality referendum
On 5 November 2013, the Government announced that a referendum to allow same-sex marriage would be held in the first half of 2015. On 19 February 2015, Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced that the Marriage Equality referendum would take place on Friday 22 May 2015. The referendum passed by large majority and added the wording "Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex" to the Irish Constitution.
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is outlawed by the Employment Equality Act, 1998 and the Equal Status Act, 2000. These laws forbid discrimination in any of the following areas: employment, vocational training, advertising, collective agreements, the provision of goods and services, and other publicly available opportunities.
The protections provided remain uneven. As pointed out at page 26 in Review, the Journal of the Public Service Executive Union, July/August 2014, Section 81E (5) of the Pensions Act 1990, as amended, prevents pensioners, who retired more than one year before the Civil Partnership Act, 2010, from challenging the refusal of a survivor's pension for their civil partner. The Government used this section to block legal attempts by LGBT people to obtain pensions as recently as March 2015.
Despite the passage of the Marriage Equality Amendment, the Labour Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, told the Dáil that he will not allow, for example, a gay man, who opted not to give a (meaningless) pension benefit to his wife in 1984, the right to opt to give a pension benefit to his husband in 2015 the first opportunity he could have done so. This would remain the case even if the gay man paid the same pension contributions as his heterosexual colleague. This decision was condemned in a leading article and opinion piece in the Irish Examiner on 24 June 2015 as being contrary to the spirit of the Marriage Referendum but remains government policy.
The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989 outlaws incitement to hatred based on sexual orientation. The penalties for violating this law are sentenced up to a fine not exceeding £1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both on the first offense, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding £10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to both.
On 3 June 2015, the Government Cabinet debated the Employment Equality Amendment Bill 2015. The amendment would remove the provision in the Employment Equality Act allowing religious run schools to dismiss teachers and staff on the sole basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. On 11 July 2015, the bill passed the lower house. On 9 August 2015, the bill passed the upper house. On 16 August 2015, the Irish President signed the bill into law. The legislation went into effect immediately.
Gender identity and expression
On 19 October 2007, Dr. Lydia Foy won her case in the High Court which ruled that the failure to allow her to obtain a new birth certificate recording her gender as female was in breach of her rights under the ECHR. The Government appealed this decision but dropped its appeal in June 2010 and stated it would introduce legislation in the future. A new Government took office in February 2011 and following the report of an advisory committee in July 2011, the Minister responsible announced that the Government would introduce gender recognition legislation as soon as possible. No legislation had been introduced by February 2013 and Dr. Foy commenced new legal proceedings seeking to enforce the decision made by the High Court in 2007. In June 2014, a gender recognition bill was announced and in September 2014, the Government stated that it will be published by the end of the year. The bill was introduced on 19 December 2014. On 15 July 2015, the Gender Recognition Bill 2015 with major amendments passed both houses of the Oireachtas and President Michael D. Higgins signed the bill into law on 22 July 2015. Ireland and a few other countries have all removed medical criteria from the gender identity legal recognition process. The law came into effect on 8 September 2015.
Adoption and parenting
Irish adoption law allows for applications to adopt children by married couples, cohabiting couples or single applicants. The legalisation of same-sex marriage in Ireland, in conjunction with the passage of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 and the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017, means that same-sex couples are in law permitted to adopt.
A single gay person or one partner of a couple may apply and a same-sex couple may submit a joint application to foster children. Additionally, lesbian couples have access to IVF and assisted insemination treatment. In January 2014, Government Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter announced that the Government intends bringing in laws by the end of the year to extend guardianship, custody, and access rights to the non-biological parents of children in same-sex relationships and children born through surrogacy and sperm and egg donation.
On 21 January 2015, the Government announced that a revised draft of the Children and Family Relationships Bill would give cohabiting couples and those in civil partnerships full adoption rights. The bill was set to become law before the May same-sex marriage referendum. The bill was published on 19 February 2015, ratified by both houses of the Oireachtas by 30 March 2015 and was signed into law on 6 April 2015. Key provisions of the Act (including spouses, stepparents, civil partners and cohabiting partners being able to apply to become guardians of a child) went into effect on 18 January 2016. Portions of the Act allowing for full adoption rights have not yet come into effect.
On 5 May 2016, James Reilly, then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, announced that the Irish Government had approved the publication of the Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016. The bill would amend the Adoption Act 2010 and the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 and give legislative effect to the Thirty-first Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland (the children referendum). The purposes of the bill are to allow children to be adopted by their foster carers, where they have cared for the child for at least 18 months, and to allow two people regardless of marital status to adopt children, thus granting married same-sex couples the right to adopt. The bill also allows for the adoption of a child by civil partners and cohabiting couples and gives children a greater say in the adoption process, among many other reforms to the adoption system. The bill passed the Dáil on 30 November 2016, and received approval by the Seanad on 13 June 2017. The bill was signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins on 19 July 2017, becoming the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017. The commencement order was signed by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, on 18 October and the law went into effect the following day.
In January 2017, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) replaced a lifetime ban on donations from males who have ever had anal or oral sex with another male with a 12-month ban. This followed intense campaigning on the issue by activists over a number of years, including a judicial review challenge to the policy in the Irish High Court.
On 27 July 2015, Tomás Heneghan, a 23-year-old University of Limerick student and journalist from Galway began a legal challenge in the High Court against the permanent deferral imposed on MSM donors. He argued that the questionnaire and interview process used by the IBTS does not adequately assess the risk of disease transmission posed by his donation. He claimed this is in breach of EU law. He said that both failed to consider the length of time between a donor's last sexual experience and the end of a "window period" in which infections are sometimes not detected. Heneghan's previous sexual activity posed no risk of infection, according to HSE-approved advice and he said the service had no evidence upon which it could legitimately impose a lifelong ban on him donating blood.
Following several adjournments of the case to allow the blood service and Department of Health to examine and develop the donation policies, in late June 2016 the Irish Blood Transfusion Service recommended that the lifetime ban on MSM be reduced to a 12-month ban. Later that week, Minister for Health Simon Harris agreed to the recommendations and announced the reduction would take place. However, no timeline was initially reported for the implementation of the new policies.
On 26 July 2016, Heneghan dropped his High Court challenge against the service as an end to the lifetime deferral on MSM blood donors had been announced in the interim. Heneghan then wrote about his experiences of challenging the ban in a number of national media outlets. He also appeared on TV3's Ireland AM show to speak about his case.
On 2 October 2016, it was reported that Minister Harris would implement the new policy from 16 January 2017, almost seven months after he announced the policy change.
On 16 January 2017, Heneghan (now 25) attended a blood donation clinic in D'Olier Street, Dublin and became the first man who has had sex with another man to donate blood openly in the Republic of Ireland since the lifetime deferral policy was first introduced in the 1980s. However, he also criticised the new 12 month deferral policy on MSM and called on Ireland's Health Minister to initiate a review of the IBTS and replace the 12 month deferral period for MSM with no deferral or a 3 month deferral on all donors following sexual intercourse.
Previously, in August 2013 Heneghan had alleged that the Irish Blood Transfusion Service had discriminated against him despite his assertion that he had never had oral or anal sex with another man.
|Same-sex sexual activity legal||(Since 1993)|
|Equal age of consent||(Since 1993)|
|Anti-discrimination laws in employment only
(Expansion: including schools and hospitals run by the religious orders)
|Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services||(Since 2000)|
|Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)||(Since 1989)|
|Anti-discrimination laws concerning gender identity|
|Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. civil partnership)||(Since 2011)|
|Same-sex marriages||(Since 2015)|
|Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples||(Since 2016)|
|Joint adoption by same-sex couples||(Since 2017)|
|Gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve openly in the military||(Since 1993)|
|Right to change legal gender||(Since 2015)|
|Access to IVF for lesbians||(Since 2000)|
|Commercial surrogacy for gay couples||(Altruistic surrogacy proposed. Commercial surrogacy outlawed regardless of sexual orientation)|
|Conversion therapy banned on minors|
|MSMs allowed to donate blood||/ (Since 2017, 1 year deferral period)|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to LGBT in Ireland.|
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- Employment Equity Act, 1998
- Equal Status Act, 2000.
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- Norris v. Ireland – 10581/83  ECHR 22 (26 October 1988)– European Court of Human Rights judgement overturning the Supreme Court ruling
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