A lesbian couple from the Republic of Ireland who married in Canada yesterday renewed calls to have the same legal rights as those in heterosexual marriages.

Dr Katherine Zappone and Dr Ann Louise Gilligan took part in the first expert meeting on the recognition of married same-sex couples at the European Parliament in Brussels.

They joined couples from across Europe who are seeking recognition of their marriage.

Lawyers, academic experts and representatives of the European Commission also attended.

According to Ireland.com, Dr Zappone and Dr Gilligan maintain that the only equal partnership for gay and lesbian couples is civil marriage.

The couple, who married four years ago, are taking a case to the Supreme Court in the Republic of Ireland to have their union recognised.

They believe civil union or civil partnership may suit the needs of some gay and lesbian couples, as it would the needs of some opposite sex couples.

However, the couple argue that civil partnership for same-sex couples is not equal to the right of heterosexual couples to marry.

The doctors have also stated that several other European countries, including Spain and the Netherlands, recognise same-sex marriage as the only partnership option of equality for same-sex couples.

In the Irish courts yesterday Mr Justice Liam McKechnie held that the couple had reached the threshold for pursuing a judicial review.

However, according to RTE news, he said this decision was in no way a reflection on what might be the ultimate outcome.

He said the institution of marriage will be at the core of this debate, and that a number of deeply held values will potentially be up for consideration.

“The case embraces far reaching issues touching on many aspects of society,” Mr Justice McKechnie added.

Last week the Irish Government voted down a Labour Party Bill on civil unions but proposed an alternative by the end of next March.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Dr Zappone said that Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern could easily grant such rights in Ireland without the need for legislation on civil partnerships.