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(en) Ireland, Anarchist Workers Solidarity #88 - Why Would Gays Want To Marry?

Date Sun, 23 Oct 2005 07:58:47 +0200

The issue of gay marriage has come to the fore again recently with
both Canada and Spain approving bills to make it legal. In this interview
we talk to Judy Walsh, from the Equality Studies department in UCD about
how marriage and partnership rights are currently constructed in Ireland.
WSM: Can you explain how marriage and partnership rights stand
at the moment in Ireland?
JW: There is a very clear hierarchy in the Irish legal system. Marriage
is the very privileged family form and that is confined to straight
people. At the moment it excludes people who have a different gender
identity that hasn't been recognised. In terms of what this contract
involves, once you sign up for marriage you take on fairly extensive
obligations towards your partner but you also have a range of benefits
confirmed on you largely around tax, social welfare, employment

WSM: Do the policies around partnership rights have a negative
impact for all relationships outside of marriage or is it just same sex

JW: Anything outside the marital family unit is treated less favourably;
so solo parents, people who are heterosexual but are cohabiting or not
and are not married are all treated as lesser forms of family then the
martial family, the courts have made that very clear. The constitution
prescribes special protection for the married family.

In relation to social welfare last year the government introduced
legislation to say that gay or lesbian co-habiting couples are not to be
treated as couples for the purpose of social welfare.

In most area you find that married couples are benefiting and have the
most defined set of rights. If you own a property and if you are married
your spouse has an automatic share in the property, moreover married
couples don't have to pay inheritance tax. If you are not married and
you are in the same situation and your partner dies it depends whether
you have written a will or not. Your partner is a stranger to the law.

WSM: Are there other ways in which people who can't legally get
married lose out?

JW: Sure, children are probably the one is most acute in people's
actual lives.

In terms of parent child relationships, if you are married both parents
are automatically the legal guardians of their children. Where the
parents of the kid are not married to each other the mother is
automatically given custody and rights over the child.

Married fathers are presumed to be automatically good parents and
unmarried fathers are seen as having a lesser status. The real problem
here is not discrimination based on gender but on martial status.

WSM: How does this effect same sex couples that have a child?

JW: The biological parent, whether they be a man or women is the
guardian. The partner would fall outside the parental unit. There is no
provision at the moment to have a gay or lesbian partner to be
appointed as guardian.

WSM: Do you see these laws changing so that same sex couples
will be able to get married?

JW: Marriage is somewhere off in the distant future. The gay and
lesbian lobby have various positions, which is not necessarily a bad
thing. Many groups that have put in proposals are saying they don't
want marriage per se; they just want some form of recognition. For
example GLUE who are concerned mostly with people whose partner
is outside the EU want some form of recognition; for them it's an
urgent issue of being able to be with their partner in the one place.

David Norris drew up a bill to put gay and lesbian relationships on
some sort of legal footing with opposite sex non-married couples. This
was introduced last year but it has been deferred. The government
indicated that it would draw up its own proposals. The issue is gaining
some political momentum and I can image there will be a larger
debate around this fairly soon.

WSM: Do you think that state should be regulating interpersonal

JW: There needs to be some form of ground rules to protect people
from being exploited, from violence and abuse. Traditionally the state
has used marriage for the base of many things, basically maintaining
inequalities, privatising responsibility and care. Basically the state
subsidises marriage, we give it financial benefits, we need to ask why
don't we subsidise solo parents. At the moment children are inheriting
the poverty of there parents. People talk about meritocracy and I think
it's a joke.

WSM: What is your utopian vision of relationship formation and

JW: Autonomy and equality as the two core values, where every
individual would have autonomy and the right to self-determination, to
freely choose the type of relationships they want to form with whom,
when etc. Subject to their not being able to exploit or abuse someone
else. If each individual had a basic standard of living regardless of
gender or martial status, the questions about what happens when you
cohabitate or get marriedbecome more or less lrrelevant.

by Tobie*
This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper
'Workers Solidarity'. http://struggle.ws/wsm/paper.html

We also provide PDF files of all our
publications for you to print out and distribute locally

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This edition is No88 published in Sept 2005

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