An Irish lesbian couple who married in Canada have been granted a court date to seek recognition of their union in Ireland.
Drs Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan were told this week that there hearing will take place on October 3rd 2006.
The couple said that they are looking forward to a positive outcome to their case despite the recent High Court decision rejecting Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger’s bid to have their Canadian marriage recognised a civil marriage in the UK.
Drs Zappone and Gilligan said that Ireland now has an opportunity to lead rather than simply follow in the area of social justice.
The UK judge ruled that the marriage of Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson should be recognised as a civil partnership, but not as a marriage.
“While civil partnership might allow same sex couples a broad range of marriage-like privileges, it does not confer equality of status and equality of rights on all Irish citizens,” the couple said in a statement.
“We are already married, the primary way the State can promote and protect the rights and responsibilities of all its citizens – straight and same sex – in financial and familial issues is to open the Irish institution of civil marriage to same sex couples.”
They also pointed out that the traditional institution of marriage has in fact changed over time. For example, divorce was introduced in Ireland in 1997 which required a constitutional change. They stated that they are looking for a continuation of this social process of change in marriage so that it can be enjoyed by all members of today’s modern society.
Drs Zappone and Gilligan were married in a civil ceremony in Canada on September 13th, 2003. Their marriage is valid for all purposes in Canada.
At the hearing of their action in October, Drs Zappone and Gilligan will seek a declaration that in failing to recognise their Canadian marriage, and in failing to apply the tax law provisions relating to married couples to them as a married couple, the State and the Revenue Commissioners have acted unlawfully, in breach of their Constitutional Rights and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
They are also seeking a declaration that the relevant provisions of tax law are unconstitutional and void. If they do not get recognition of their Canadian marriage, they are alternatively seeking a declaration that they are entitled to marry each other in Ireland.
One of the judge’s main arguments in rejecting Ms Kitzinger and Ms Wilkinson claims was that they are still recognised as civil partners in under UK law, however, the Republic of Ireland has no such law, despite promises to establish one.