Senator Katherine Zappone and Dr. Anne Louise Gilligan | Marriage Equality

In late summer of 2003, Phil O’Hehir in this office was asked by Senator Katherine Zappone & Dr. Anne Louise Gilligan to represent them in relation to a legal action they wished to take. Katherine and Anne Louise were married in Canada in September 2003 and they wanted to be free to marry in the Ireland in order that they might obtain parity with other married couples. They were concerned about the discrimination that existed in favour of married couples in areas such as the family homes, pensions, taxation and employment.

I remember a staff meeting at the time when we all agreed that the most likely outcome was that the case would be lost but that it would attract a lot of publicity and would raise the profile of gay couples in Ireland seeking to have their right to marriage recognised by the State.

We were all conscious that the tide was turning throughout the world and that slowly but surely same sex marriage was being introduced in various countries around the world and in various American states. We knew however that the Irish State would vigorously contest the case and for the next 12 years we were involved in a constant legal struggle with the State.

As we prepared our case for the High Court, we received help and assistance from experts all over the world. There was a quite enormous amount of goodwill for Katherine and Anne Louise and their fight to have their marriage recognised. They appeared on The Late Late Show and their lives together were highlighted in the media over many years. Their story became public knowledge. What they thought and what we thought would be perhaps a three or four year fight turned out to be a 13 year fight.

In the end we were not successful in our legal action but I am absolutely certain that this legal action and the personalities of Katherine and Ann Louise were hugely instrumental in raising public awareness and public consciousness of this issue and I am equally certain that Katherine and Anne Louise did more than anybody or any organisation in this country to bring about the recognition of civil partnerships and now, same sex marriages.

Katherine and Anne Louise were also the inspiration behind the formation of Marriage Equality, which launched in Ireland in February 2008.

I want to thank Katherine and Anne Louise for asking Brophy Solicitors to act for them over the last very many years and I want to thank the lady who was my colleague at the time but who is now my wife, Phil O’Hehir, who introduced the firm to Katherine and Anne Louise. My relationship with Phil survived the publication of a front page banner headline in the News of The World following our successful application to bring these judicial review proceedings. The front page carried a picture of Katherine and Phil walking along outside the Four Courts in the glow of victory under a banner headline “Dublin Lesbians Celebrate Court Victory”!

Very many congratulations to Katherine, Anne Louise and the Marriage Equality team and all their supporters.


Kevin Brophy

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