'My wife and my son are my family... but right now it’s like she doesn’t even exist'
Sarah and her wife, Geraldine, welcomed their gorgeous baby boy, Lochlan, in November.
Now three-and-a-half months old, their son is – of course – the apple of his parents’ eyes.
Born at healthy 10lbs 4oz, it’s understandably been a blissful time for the Stone McDevitt family.
However, in the midst of their happiness is a pretty significant upset: despite being a married couple and co-parents, Ger’s name is notably absent from Lochlan’s birth cert.
“I'm originally from Sligo - she's a Dub. We met in 2014; we were engaged the following year and nine months after that we got married in Roscommon.
“We were actually the first same-sex couple to marry in the county; we had the ceremony booked before marriage referendum even took place,” Sarah tells Her this week.
Like a lot of newly married couples, after tying the knot, Sarah and Ger turned their attentions to expanding their family.
“We both we knew we wanted children – it was one of the conversations that we had early in our relationship.”
They decided that Sarah would carry their first child – “mainly because I’m getting a bit long in the tooth!” she jokes.
— Cian Corbett (@Cian_Corbett) February 8, 2018
Almost three years ago the Children And Family Relationships Act was signed into Irish law by President Michael Higgins; it’s a hugely important, milestone piece of legislation that provides “legal clarity around various family types and address discrimination faced by children in non-marital families”. In some capacity, it's relevant to an awful lot of people in Ireland.
“So initially I wasn’t too worried that our child would be in anyway legally discriminated against, or that Ger and I wouldn’t have the same rights as other parents,” Sarah adds. “I assumed that by the time our child was born the changes this legislation would be long-implemented.”
Sadly for the Stone McDevitts – as well as many other same-sex parents – this has not been the case.
“Right now in the eyes of the law, I am a single parent,” Sarah states, “when clearly that is not at all reflective of my set-up – of raising a child with my wife.
“As it stands on Irish birth certs, there is a column for the mother and another for the father; the new legislation would also allow for a third ‘co parent’ column, but doesn’t exist yet.”
— Amanda Ní Dhufaigh (@Mandy_NiD) February 8, 2018
Sarah continues: “I have no idea what has caused such a massive delay – yes, there are things that will need to be tweaked and changed when this legislation is enacted; wording on certain forms and documents, for example. But often this will be a straightforward swapping the word ‘husband’ for ‘spouse’. That doesn’t justify such a significant deferral.”
She adds: “There is just no urgency at all from the Government on this – we’re not asking for anything additional; we’re not asking for big overhaul here, or for special treatment. What we want to see is law that has already been thrashed out and signed off on is actually put into effect.”
Sarah clarifies that a heterosexual couple who undergo fertility treatment and use donor eggs or donor sperm to conceive could regardless when their child is born register the arrival as a couple who conceived naturally would – listing the mother and father on the birth cert.
“Your birth-cert isn’t a genetic or biological statement – it’s an official recording of who your parents are when you're born.”
She acknowledges that following a period of two years, Ger could apply to become their son’s legal guardian – but the intervening period would be unjustly uncertain.
— Lauren Murphy (@laurensusername) February 9, 2018
“If the worst was to happen and I died, my wife – our son’s other parent – would have no automatic right of guardianship.
“And there are other issues too around inheritance, medical appointments, and education.
“Some people tell us to go down the adoption route – but how horrible that someone would have to come into our home to evaluate and adjudge whether Ger is suitable to parent her own son.
“Fundamentally this is about us pushing the Government to get the finger out and put the existing legislation into effect.
“The LGBTQ community is small and we need to make our voices heard because otherwise we’ll just be ignored.”
And certainly Sarah spent much of her pregnancy and subsequent maternity leave diligently "refusing to just go away"– writing to ministers, TDs, and anyone else whom she felt could help her family: she's recently appeared on RTÉ radio, Newstalk, as well as on the front page of the Sligo Weekender.
“My wife is also raising our son and doing all the things that I’m doing,” Sarah says. “If Leinster House can get pubs to open on Good Friday, the necessary people can sort out this issue for us and for all the other couples it impacts.”
She is now asking for the wider public’s help in putting weight behind her campaign – tweeting to Health Minister Simon Harris using the hashtag #ForLochlan.
Sarah adds: “We’re blue in the face asking and screaming and shouting; it’s so frustrating. And this ultimately is about telling LGBTQ parents that they matter – and that their children matter.
“My wife and my son are my family and right now it’s like Ger doesn’t even exist. That’s just not right.
"So we need to keep this on the Government’s agenda – and I won't stop until this wrong is made right."
Sarah and Ger want as many people as possible to tweet @simonharristd or to email firstname.lastname@example.org asking what the hold up is. Please also use the hashtag #forlochlan to spread awareness.