Gay Irish sperm donor wins visiting rights to lesbian couple's child
Supreme Court says lesbians are not a valid family unit
Published Friday, December 11, 2009, 9:32 AM
Updated Friday, December 11, 2009, 9:58 AM
The Irish Supreme Court ruled that the gay sperm donor had visiting rights
An Irish gay sperm donor has been granted access to a lesbian couple's three-year-old child.
The Irish Supreme Court ruled that the man should be allowed regular visits to his three-year-old son partly because Ireland's constitution does not recognise the lesbians as a family unit.
The ruling is a legal first in Ireland, where homosexuality was outlawed until 1993 and gay couples are denied many rights.
The man had donated sperm to the lesbian couple and it was agreed at the time that the man would be a "favourite uncle" to the child.
The ruling by the Supreme Court acknowledged the agreement but said any closer connection would be "wholly disruptive" to the child. They said the man should have visiting rights although not legal legal guardianship.
The donor had been very close to the lesbian couple and was forthcoming when asked if he would donate sperm to the couple. However their relationship turned sour when the couple decided to relocate to Australia
with the boy.
The man and the couple had signed a written agreement in 2005 agreeing on visiting rights and that the lesbian couple would be legal guardians.
It was agreed in court that the man was largely responsible for the breakdown in the original agreement and that the donor broke the agreement when he asked to be recognized as the child's father.
Although the case appears to advance the rights of gays, the Supreme Court ruled for the father because it said that the lesbian couple were not a family under the Irish Constitution.
The constitution states that a family is based in the marriage between a man and woman that there was no institution supporting a "de facto family" in Ireland.
The High Court had previously ruled that the couple and child constituted a family under the European Convention on Human Rights Act
in 2003. If the father and couple do not agree on access issues it will revert back to the High Court and it will make the decision.
The lesbian couple did not attend the court case. However the gay sperm donor was in attendance and was "very happy" with the outcome.
A child psychiatrist understood to have advised the court against granting access or guardianship to the donor.