Give our daughter a birth certificate and the right to travel
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Our names are Amanda and Lesley Coyne-Bingham and we are doing everything we can to help our daughter Cammie to be issued with both corrected birth certificate and a passport. I (Amanda) am an Irish citizen and I grew up in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. I (Lesley) am from Kilmarnock, Scotland and have been living in Ireland for six years. We now live in Portarlington, Co. Laois with our daughter Cammie who is one and a half years old.
We have been together since 2010 and we were married (full marriage, not civil partnership) in New York City in May 2014. Since the same-sex marriage referendum in 2015 our marriage has been fully recognised here in Ireland. Our marriage is also fully recognised in Scotland where Lesley is from.
In late 2014 we began fertility treatment and in August 2016 we had a beautiful baby girl, Cammie. I (Amanda) am the biological mother. When we went to register her birth at the office of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Portlaoise, shortly after her birth, they would only put my name (Amanda) on the birth certificate. They said that while the Children and Family Relationships Bill was passed (also in early 2015), parts of the legislation were yet to come into effect and that they did not have the paperwork in place to accommodate same-sex parentage. This has left us in limbo with regard to our daughter's birth certificate and we have since discovered that her passport application has also been affected.
We had applied for her passport before Christmas in 2016 as we hoped she would spend her first Christmas with family in Scotland. After going to a Garda station to get the passport form signed, the local Gardai in Monasterevin advised that she unfortunately was unable to sign the form. When we called the passport office in Cork they advised us that we would need to either apply to the court to get Lesley listed as a guardian or Amanda would have to sign an affidavit stating that Lesley has nothing whatsoever to do with raising our daughter, essentially signing away her rights. The irony of the situation is that according to Irish Law, Lesley has no rights to begin with. The reason the passport office wants the affidavit is because our daughter's (incomplete) birth certificate states that Amanda is married.
The office of births, deaths and marriages in Portlaoise said that Lesley's details can be added to the birth certificate at a later date when the official paperwork is in place to accommodate it. There is still no sign of the official paperwork being updated. This is now 2018.
In January 2017 we made an appointment to see a solicitor about the issue. They assured us that they would let us know when the relevant parts of legislation had come into effect. They still have not come into effect but we have made Lesley a testamentary guardian in a will. We did not go to the court to do this. The solicitor drew up the will.
We have also been made aware that Lesley has no legal standing when it comes to our daughter. A further note to include is that we divided all expenses for fertility treatment, donor sperm and medical expenses equally. We also love, care for and cherish our daughter equally. We do not want to sign an affidavit both on principle of the issue (Lesley is Cammie's mother) and also because we are hoping the parts of the legislation affecting us will come into practice soon.
Besides Lesley not being considered a parent to our daughter, she also has no say in her education, medical matters (which we discovered later) and anything official which may require parental consent/authorisation. Yet when our daughter needed life-saving surgery days after birth, the hospital was content to let Lesley sign the consent forms. They only needed to know that we are married.
We also want Lesley to be able to travel freely with her. All of Lesley's family live in Scotland and Amanda's brother and sister-in-law also lives in the UK. We don't know where to go from here and our daughter has been effectively grounded in Ireland since birth.
Not only can we not get an Irish passport for Cammie but we can not get a UK passport either because Lesley is not listed on our daughter's birth certificate. The issue has been extremely vexing for us. Where is our daughter's right to travel? And where are Lesley's rights to be recognised as her daughter's mother?
Most importantly we want the correct birth certificate for our daughter.
On embarking on our fertility journey we were led to believe that by the time our baby came along in the late summer of 2016, we would both be given equal parentage. However nearing three years after the Children and Family Relationships Act passed, we are still not granted equal parentage over our baby.
For me (Amanda) 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 both by the law, on whatever paperwork needs to be changed/completed and she deserves not to be questioned by any establishment that requires both parents to consent.
We have been in touch with the ministers listed below numerous times and have received in return a copy and paste email from most of them, some offered no response at all.
Dr. Katherine Zappone - Minister for Children and Youth Affairs
TD Simon Harris - Minister for Health
TD Simon Coveney - Minister for Foreign Affairs
David Stanton - Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration
Richard Bruton - Minister for Education
Regina Doherty and Conor O Reilly - Minister for Employment and Social Protection
Charlie Flanagan - Minister for Justice and Equality Protection
Senator Fintan Warfield - Sinn Fein
Leo Varadkar - Taoiseach
Michael D Higgins - President
In their response to us they sent this:
Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 provide for parentage through donor-assisted reproduction. These Parts are to be commenced, in due course, by Mr Simon Harris, T.D., the Minister for Health. It was decided during the passage of the Bill through the Dáil and the Seanad to delay the commencement of these parts for a minimum period of one year from enactment.
This was to ensure that couples currently undergoing donor-assisted fertility treatment would be able to continue their treatment, to enable treating clinics to source known donors who would be prepared to have their identities disclosed, and to enable the Department of Health to prepare the necessary regulations. I understand that preparatory work in relation to commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act is currently underway, involving officials from the Department of Health.
Where a couple have a child through assisted human reproduction treatment which took place prior to the commencement of these provisions and other than in accordance with them, the social parent will not be recorded on the child's birth certificate from the outset, as parentage continues to be assigned under current law. However, when preparing the Children and Family Relationships Act, the previous Minister for Justice and Equality was keenly aware that there will be potentially significant numbers of people who will have already had donor-assisted fertility treatment and will have, or already have, children through those procedures.
Accordingly, when Parts 2 and 3 of the Act are brought into force by Mr Simon Harris, T.D., Minister for Health, and depending on the particular circumstances, it may be possible for couples to seek a declaration under section 21 of the Act that the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the birth mother is the other parent of the child (with all of the parental responsibilities that entails), and ultimately to have a new birth certificate issued reflecting that legal parentage.
We want Lesley's name on our daughter's birth certificate first and foremost and we want our daughter to have a passport so she can travel freely with either one of us. We want our daughter to have the correct paperwork, stating, rightfully who both of her parents are.
Ireland is a shining beacon of hope for other countries currently fighting the fight for Equality but it shouldn't be. Our family life has been greatly impacted because of these mammoth loopholes and we don't know what to do about this "limbo" situation we have found ourselves in besides tell anyone who will listen and hopefully we can gather enough signatures on our petition so that someone has to sit up and take notice.
There are many couples out there with similar if not the same issues we face so it is not just ourselves we are trying to help. We need to change things for the present and the future so that when a couple, who love each other very much, have a child together, there will be no hoops to jump through in order to get a birth certificate and a passport.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please sign our petition and share our petition if you can.
Amanda and Lesley Coyne-Bingham
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