Same-sex couple can't get passport for baby daughter unless one woman 'signs away her rights'

A same-sex couple has threatened to sue the State for their daughter's right to travel after being refused a passport and a birth certificate that recognises both parents equally, writes Louise Walsh.

Little Cammie Coyne-Bingham has been effectively grounded since birth and unable to visit her grandparents in Scotland because she is ineligible for either an Irish or a UK passport because of the current Irish laws.

Her parents Irish-born Amanda and Scottish native Leslie are unable to get their 18-month old daughter a passport as equal guardians simply due to a delay in enacting a section of new legislation.

At present, Cammie cannot get a UK passport because Leslie is not listed on her Irish birth certificate.

Currently in Ireland, birth certificates provide space for 'Mother' and 'Father' and, as Leslie is not a 'father', the infant cannot secure an Irish passport unless Leslie signs an affidavit, relinquishing all responsibility of her child.

The root cause of this issue is because Amanda is listed as 'married' on the baby's birth certificate.

The couple who live in Portarlington, Co Laois, have been together for eight years and married in New York in 2014 - a union now recognised in Ireland since the same-sex marriage referendum in 2015.

Amanda carried their baby to birth after fertility treatment using a known donor - who is anonymous to the couple but who provided four generations of full family medical history.

"We went 50/50 in everything; the decisions, the treatment, the finances and the raising of our daughter," said Amanda.

"We were led to believe that by the time we had Cammie, we would be considered as equal parents in the eyes of the law."

At this time, Amanda says that Irish law prohibits implanting one of Leslie's eggs into her womb, which was initially the couple's hopes when starting a family.

After her birth, Cammie needed emergency life-saving surgery after both mothers insisted their baby was unwell.

"The hospital was happy to let Lesley sign off on the operation. All they wanted to know was that we were married.

"The maternity hospital we attended also treated her as an equal parent all through the pregnancy and birth."

However, in other areas, Lesley was treated as a virtual stranger to her own child.

"We tried to get a passport for Cammie when she was three months old, so we could visit Lesley's family in Scotland over Christmas,” said Amanda.

“It never even occurred to us that there’d be any problem getting Cammie a passport,” added Lesley.

"The Garda said she wasn't able to sign the passport form unless Amanda was listed as a single parent and I signed an affidavit waiving all my rights to Cammie – it’s ironic that I have to sign away rights which they’re telling me I don’t have in the first place by not being listed on the birth certificate.

"There's no way, on principle, that was going to happen,” added Amanda.

"This also means that Lesley, at it stands, has no say in Cammie's education, medical matters or anything official which may require parental consent."

The couple also can't apply for a UK passport because Lesley is not on Cammie's birth cert and recognised as her parent.

However, the issue could easily be resolved if delayed legislation was enacted.

"The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 was designed to provide same-sex couples with parental rights but some of these provisions are still not in force."

Signed into law six weeks before the referendum, the legislation regulates parentage where a child is born to a couple via donor-assisted human reproduction.

However, some of these sections have yet to be commenced, meaning that Lesley still can't be recognised as the legal parent of her daughter.

"We used to travel to the UK easily every 6-8 weeks to visit Lesley's family or my own brother but now we are not going anywhere without our daughter.

"Lesley has only been home three times since Cammie was born a year and a half ago, and once was for a funeral."

The couple have been in contact with a number of politicians and Ministers on the matter - but no-one can seem to give them the answers they need.

"I find it heartbreaking to see my wife with no rights when we have 100% been on this journey to parenthood together. Lesley is an incredible mother and she deserves to be recognised as such by the law, on whatever paperwork needs to be completed.

"We will do anything we need to in order to get a corrected birth certificate and a passport for our daughter and that includes going down the legal route."

Department of Health response

In a statement, the Department of Health said that the Minister is 'hoping' to put the necessary regulations before the Houses of the Oireachtas "as early as possible" this year.

It said: "With regard to the registration of the baby's birth the commencement of Parts 2 & 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 will put in place for provisions for this couple to seek a declaration of parentage in the District or Circuit Court. This declaration will then enable them to seek re-registration of the birth of their child, with both parents named on the birth certificate. However it must be noted that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is required to commence Part 9 of the CFR Act in order to put this process into place.

"Matters relating to the issuing of passports are the responsibility of the Department of Foreign Affairs and we cannot comment on that issue.

"The Minister and his officials are acutely aware of how necessary the provisions of the Children and Family Relationships Act are and how eagerly they are awaited and officials in the Department of Health are undertaking the work necessary to facilitate the commencement of Parts 2 & 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015. Making regulations in an area of such sensitivity is a complex and detailed matter and officials in the Department are focused on ensuring that the processes required by Parts 2 and 3 of the Act are as effective and robust as they need to be for the sake of the families concerned.

"The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 makes provisions in relation to the registration of births of children born as a result of donor-assisted human reproduction procedures. In cases where a child has been conceived prior to the commencement of Parts 2 & 3 of the Act, Sections 20-23 make specific provisions for the retrospective declaration of parentage in the case of donor-conceived children, while Section 95 in Part 9 of the Act allows for re-registration of the birth of a donor-conceived child and the issuing of a new birth certificate in relation to that child.

"Section 20 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 applies to a child:

1. Who was born in Ireland,

2. Who was born as a result of a Donor Assisted Human Reproduction procedure carried out before Section 20 of the CFR Act is commenced, regardless of where the procedure was performed (either in Ireland or abroad)

3. No person other than the mother (the woman who gave birth to the child) is registered on the birth certificate

4. The donor remains unknown to the mother (a sperm donor sourced from a sperm bank, on an anonymous or non-anonymous basis, would be considered unknown)

"Once those 4 conditions are satisfied a couple will be able to jointly make an application to the District Court for a declaration of parentage to be granted in the case of the second parent: the declaration will deem that person the parent of the child, with all the legal rights and responsibilities which parentage entails.

"This declaration of parentage will then be used to re-register the birth of the child and a new birth certificate can be issued in relation to that child naming both parents as the parents of that child. Note that the provisions above will not come into effect until Parts 2, 3 and 9 of the Child and Family Relationships Act 2015 are commenced.

"The Minister hopes to be in a position to lay the necessary Regulations before the Houses of the Oireachtas as early as possible in 2018."

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection response

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection says the delay in starting the new laws are down to the roll-out of training to staff of the Civil Registration Service.

In a statement, it says: "The Department cannot comment on the issuing of passports as that is a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"The position with regard to the registration of births is as follows:

"Under Irish law, the mother of a child is the woman who gives birth to the child. This principle was confirmed in 2014 by the Supreme Court and it applies even if the child has been conceived using a donated egg. Under Irish law, the father is the child’s biological father. The position in relation to parentage is the same for both heterosexual and same-sex couples.

"The current legislation governing registration of births provides for the registration of a mother’s details and a father’s details. It is not possible, at present, to register the details of a birth using the term “parent”. The current legislative provisions are in the Civil Registration Act 2004 (as amended). Specifically, the mother’s/father’s details to be registered are set out in Part 1 of the First Schedule to the Act.

"Provision has since been made for registering details of “parent” in section 99 (in Part 9) of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 (which amends Parts 1 and 2 of the First Schedule of the Civil Registration Act 2004, as amended), in the case of a donor-assisted birth. These provisions have yet to be commenced pending the roll-out of training to staff of the Civil Registration Service who are employees of the HSE. The General Register Office is in a position to begin provision of training as soon as the HSE notifies it of the dates and venues.

"To clarify, the Civil Registration Act 2004 (as amended) falls within the remit of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 falls within the remit of the Minister for Justice and Equality (although it includes, amongst other provisions, amendments to the Civil Registration Act)."

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