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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2006, 17:31 GMT
Ireland rejects lesbian marriage
Ann Louise Gilligan (l) and Katharine Zappone (r)
Dr Gilligan (l) and Dr Zappone (r) say their rights are being breached
Ireland's High Court has rejected a lesbian couple's attempt to have their marriage legally recognised.

Katharine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan said that failure to recognise their marriage breached their rights.

The two were married in 2003 in British Columbia, Canada, after that province legalised same-sex marriage.

They live in Ireland and have been a couple for 25 years. They are the first homosexual couple to go to court over the issue after being married abroad.

The couple had argued that failure to recognise their marriage breached their rights under the Irish constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

'Right to marry'

"For three years we have been a married couple," said Dr Zappone after the court's ruling.

"We took the case because we believed and we requested that the human right to marry is simply extended to us."

But the High Court in Dublin ruled that the court was being asked to redefine marriage to mean something which it had never done to date.

"I do not think that it is a right which exists for same sex couples either under the Irish constitution or under the European Convention," said Justice Elizabeth Dunne in a 138-page ruling.

The couple took legal action in 2004 after Irish Revenue Commissioners refused to allow them the same tax allowances as mixed-sex couples in Ireland.

Dr Gilligan is an academic and Dr Zappone is a public policy consultant.

Justice Dunne said the rights of cohabitating couples, whether same- or mixed-sex, were being reviewed in Ireland.

Homosexuality was illegal in predominantly Roman Catholic Ireland until 1993.

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