Associated Press, November 10, 2004
Irish court to
weigh recognition of lesbians' marriage
By Shawn Pogatchnik, Associated Press
DUBLIN -- A lesbian couple who wed in Canada
can seek to have their union legally recognized
in Ireland, a judge ruled yesterday in a case
he predicted would have deep consequences for
this predominantly Catholic country.
High Court Justice Liam McKechnie said lawyers
representing Ann Louise Gilligan and Katherine
Zappone had presented a case that merited a
full hearing, likely to take place next year.
The couple -- who were married in British Columbia
in September 2003 within months of the legalization
of same-sex marriage there -- are the first
gay couple in Ireland to go to court to seek
state recognition of a foreign marriage.
The case is also a legal first for Europe, where
Belgium and the Netherlands already allow same-sex
marriages and several other nations grant homosexual
couples similar tax, inheritance, and child-rearing
rights as husbands and wives have. Britain
and Spain plan to follow suit soon.
Legal observers say the Irish women's case, if
successful here, could inspire similar lawsuits
in the most conservative quarters of Europe,
where gay couples are denied the rights of
married heterosexual couples.
Gilligan and Zappine are demanding that Ireland's
tax collection agency allow them to file as
a married couple rather than as two single
people, which involves paying more tax.
But the judge noted that the case "isn't
simply about tax bands." He noted that
in a country where homosexuality itself was
outlawed until 1993, any move to accord gay
couples the same legal rights as husbands and
wives would have "profound ethical, cultural,
and religious" ramifications.
"Today is a happy day. This is a happy case,"
Zappone declared outside the High Court, Ireland's
Their lead lawyer, Gerard Hogan, argued Monday
that neither Ireland's 1937 constitution nor
its more recent tax laws explicitly defines
marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
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