SO, ARE SOME CHILDREN REALLY BORN MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS?
Six months ago my neighbours had a beautiful little girl. Like many people on our street, I went to visit when mother and baby came out of the hospital, bringing a card and present. It was a happy occasion, the addition of a new member to our little community.
Every day, across this country, the same rituals of welcome for the newborn happen. The last thing we desire when we see those freshly made human beings is suffering. The last thing the majority of us would want to do is discriminate against an infant.
Because my neighbours are two lesbian women with a baby, they might be identified as a modern family, but to me they are just an ordinary family. They work hard so they can bring their child up the very best they can. They have the same cares and comforts that all parents experience.
Except there is one very significant difference. Their daughter is being discriminated against by the State. She has been denied the right to legally be protected by one of her parents.
I understand that some people object to same-sex parenting. For religious or other reasons they believe it's wrong -- that a child should have a mother and a father. Being a father myself, and a gay man, I don't agree and would counter that a child needs at least one loving and devoted parent in its life, and preferably two. But I am not one to insist that everyone else subscribes to my opinion.
However, the fact is that children are being born to gay and lesbian couples every day. As gay and lesbian people become more integrated and accepted into society there is a growing understanding that just because we were born this way it doesn't mean we have to go through life without the joy of creating a family.
With children increasingly being born to same-sex couples, the question is not whether you object to gay and lesbian couples having children. It is whether or not you endorse discrimination against certain children in our society. Do you believe that some are born more equal than others?
Unfortunately, despite overwhelming numbers of Irish people who said that same-sex couples should have equal marriage rights, including the same parental rights as heterosexual couples, our Government introduced civil partnerships legislation last year. In doing so, they went with a minority who vociferously equate same-sex parenting with the disenfranchisement of children. And we got a piece of legislation that disenfranchises children.
Civil partnership legislation was a major step forward in the recognition of my basic human rights, but it fails to recognise the basic human rights of the six-month-old infant who lives on my street. Should her birth mother die, that child will have no right to her other parent, the one who has co-nurtured and mothered her since she came into this world.
Unless the law is changed and equality for all couples who want to formalise their relationships is introduced, that child will one day come to an understanding that she lives in a country that deems her less deserving of protection than other children.
Are you proud to live in a country that discriminates against children? If you are a parent reading this, would you accept legislative discrimination against your own child? I don't think so. So why would you accept that it is happening to other children?
Brian Finnegan is editor of Gay Community News, www.gcn.ie