Amnesty International Ireland head Colm O’Gorman has said opposition to same-sex marriage and adoption is "rooted in bigotry".
In an attack on the Government's Civil Partnership Bill, Mr O'Gorman said that the failure of the legislation to allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt was "a cowardly decision undermining the rights of children on the basis of ill-informed arguments rooted in a bigotry that still exists in a small and increasingly marginalised section of Irish society".
He said that the Government’s proposed Civil Partnership Bill created “a second-class form of marriage". Mr O’Gorman was speaking at the annual Amnesty International Pride Lecture in Belfast last Tuesday.
“This is not about the right to marry; it is about the right not to be discriminated against because of who you love," Mr O'Gorman said. "Failure to provide full marriage equality means that same-sex couples will not have full protection under the law. In effect, it is creating a second-class form of marriage for what the Government clearly feels is a second -class group of people."
“The most serious weakness of the bill is its failure to provide for the children of gay couples, creating insecurity for families across the state," he added.
The proposed Bill will give registered same-sex couples all of the rights which are now enjoyed by married couples, including exemption from captial gains tax, pension rights and inheritance rights.
However, same-sex couples will not be allowed jointly adopt their children. Unmarried heterosexual couples are also not allowed to jointly adopt. Both heterosexual and homosexual single people are permitted to adopt.
Research purporting to demonstrate that children raised by same-sex parents suffer no problems has been criticised for a number of research flaws, including small sample sizes. Few of the studies on same-sex adoption have been over a long period of time.
In the Zappone and Gilligan case, concerning same-sex marriage, Justice Elizabeth Dunne, considering this evidence, said the State was entitled to "take a cautious view" on this research.
New research shows that mothers and fathers both play a crucial, but distinct role in bringing up children.