Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents have particularly bad experiences of adoption and fostering services in Ireland, according to a survey published today.

However, they rate health and education services much more positively.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is among a group of speakers addressing a conference in Dublin today organised by campaign group Marriage Equality.

A survey commissioned by LGBT Diversity has found that the primary concern for LGBT parents was the potential for interference with the custody rights of a non-biological parent.

The survey of 153 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents found that the vast majority experienced acceptance from family, friends and workmates.

However, nearly half also experienced discrimination and negative attitudes in their parenting roles over the last five years.

Some of the greatest difficulties arose for lesbians in accessing Assisted Human Reproduction services and for all LGBT parents in accessing adoption and fostering services.

But overall, experience with health and education services was more positive than negative.

Co-author of LGBT Parents in Ireland Paula Fagan said: "A very positive finding from this study was that for the majority of LGBT parents their immediate family members including their children, were overwhelming accepting and supportive of their LGBT identity.

"However, it was the lack of legal rights and recognition of their family which was of greatest concern for them in their daily lives.”

The vast majority of respondents feared the potential for interference with the custody and legal rights of a non-biological parent, if something happened to the legal parent.

A further major worry was the possible implication of the lack of the ability of the non-legal parent to consent to medical treatment in the event of a medical emergency with a child.

Recommendations from the LGBT Parents in Ireland report include the need for the extension of civil marriage rights to same sex couples to enable LGBT parents to claim legal rights to parenting roles.

The Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Geoffrey Shanon has said that the law "needs to keep pace with changing family forms but also needs to ensure that we respect our heritage and our values".

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, Mr Shannon, said EU research found that of "93,000 persons who are lesbian gay or bisexual across 28 EU member states ... the startling statistic there is that 28,854 of those persons had children or were legal guardians in respect of a child."

The Government has committed to holding a referendum on gay marriage by the middle of next year.