Landmark Zappone & Gilligan Case for Same Sex Marriage Opens Today

October 3, 2006

Recognising Diversity: Celebrating Marriage for All


3rd October, 2006

High Court has an opportunity to be ambitious and to make the Irish Constitution relevant and responsive to the real and lived marriages of same-sex couples – Ailbhe Smyth

The High Court will hear arguments today in the case being taken by Drs Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan (KAL Case) against the Revenue Commissioners and the State for recognition of their legal Canadian marriage in Ireland.

Senior Counsel for the plaintiffs, Michael Collins, will present the opening address before Judge Elizabeth Dunne. He will set out that the couple are asking for equality and fairness and to be treated the same as other married couples in Ireland.

Drs Zappone and Gilligan will seek various remedies before the High Court. In particular, they 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 to equality, to marriage, to property rights and family rights and in breach of their rights to privacy, marriage and non-discrimination under the European Convention on Human Rights.

“This case is fundamentally about rights and equality,” said Ailbhe Smyth, Chair of the National Lesbian and Gay Federation and KAL Advocacy Initiative supporter. “When our laws deny the equal rights of all individuals to make life-long commitments of intimacy and dependency that are actually recognised and supported by law, they discriminate and exclude.”

“We are hoping that The High Court takes the opportunity to be ambitious and to make the Irish Constitution relevant and responsive to the real and lived marriages of same-sex couples,” she said.

She also called upon members of Dáil Eireann to introduce legislation which will allow all citizens of Ireland to enter into a civil marriage if they choose to, stressing that legislators have the power to short-cut the judicial process.

“As representatives of all citizens of Ireland you have an opportunity to introduce legislation which fully commits Ireland to equality for all. Critically, we are asking you to act now – not in the next Dáil term, not after the votes for the next election are safe, not after the judiciary has considered the matter,” she said.

The KAL Case arose after Dr Zappone, a public policy research consultant, and Dr Gilligan, an academic, married in Vancouver on September 13th, 2003.

On July 1st, 2004, the Revenue refused the couple’s claim for the same allowances as a married couple under the Taxes Consolidation Acts. The Revenue argued that married couples related only to “a husband” and “a wife”, and that the Oxford English dictionary defined these as a married man and a married woman.

In the 1937 Constitution, the heterosexual marital family is the only officially recognised family structure under Irish law. In recent years, however, there has been enormous change in family structures in Ireland. In particular, the numbers of those co-habiting have doubled, from 4% of all family units in 1996 (31,300) to 8% in 2002(77,600). While still small in relative terms, the number of same sex cohabiting couples has also increased considerably from 150 in 1996 to 1,300 in 2002.

The number of children living with co-habiting parents rather than married parents has increased significantly from 23,000 children in 1996 to 51,700 children in 2002. The percentage of births outside marriage now stands at just over 31%, that is, almost one-third of births, compared with just over one-quarter (25.3%) in 1996.

The case is expected to run for three weeks.

KAL Initiative
c/o Tower 1, Fumbally Court, Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8


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