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When in 2006, the case of Drs. Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan was taken to the High Court, it generated tremendous interest in local, national and international media. "Can love be evil?" - the couple questioned traditional attitudes, when they decided to fight for the registration of a marriage between a lesbian couple in Canada to be approved in Ireland also.
"One day in April of 2003, we decided to seek justice and equality for ourselves – and for those who share our sexual identity – because enough was enough”. This decision was the beginning of great changes for women personally and for society. Dr. Ann Louise says: “In 2003, if we had done a historic scan of the newspapers, talk of marriage equality for gay and lesbian people was simply non existent in journalism, in any narrative. So when we decided to have our case heard, it became very clear that large numbers of people could actually see that yes, it is an issue of justice, an issue of equality." It also became clear that this problem has escalated and growing numbers of at least 5 different organizations have sprung up, the marches among gay pride took place in the summer and in different counties in Ireland. Some of these marches had a theme on marriage equality and now there is always a huge presence. The statistical shift in appreciation that this is an issue of justice and acceptance that must happen has got right up into 74 percent of Irish people now believe that marriage equality should be now recognised in the Irish state. And the institution of marriage should not be isolated from social, cultural or historic changes and interpretations.
Fighting for their right to be recognised, despite they lose (in 2006) the court case taken up by Katherine and Ann Louise, they won recognition of society and become one of the leading factors in the development of Ireland's recently enacted (2011) Civil Partnership legislation, which has recognised same sex relationships for the first time in Irish history. It is worth to know that it happened in a country where homosexuality was decriminalized only in 1995 - and only after the European courts ruled that Ireland was infringing on human rights. Even more, in May 2011 m. Dr. Katherine Zappone was nominated to the 24th Seanad and becomes the first openly lesbian member of the Irish Parliament and the first member in a recognised same-sex relationship.
The courage and devotion of these women has not only inspired people who encounter violation of their rights, to fight for them, but has also united their activities. The support group of the couple - KAL Initiative - in the year of 2008 became Marriage Equality group - a Non governmental organization that fights for the civil marriage for same sex couples, and the resulting rights and protections for families and children of same sex couples. Marriage Equality and their supporters continue supporting Katherine and Ann Louise, as well as lobbying the Irish Government for full civil marriage rights.
Katherine says: "What gave us hope was that very soon after the enactment of civil partnership act there was a huge march for the marriage equality on the streets, thousands of people gathered to continue the advocacy for that."
Dr. Ann Louise ads: "I think that it's very important that people understand that not only are we contesting and injustice trying to shift consciousness in relation to a prejudice, but actually our vision is not some kind of ideal of the impossible it's actually the ideal of the possible. In other words if heterosexual people can choose to marry a person they love and to have a family life where there children are embraced and included, it is not good in a society in these changing times that suddenly you have other couples who are being differently, whose children are in schools treated differently”.