The gay community in the Republic of Ireland has been given a boost regarding gay marriage after a human rights group called for recognition of partnership rights for everyone this week.

In a report published by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) entitled “Equality for All Families,” the group outlines the need for Constitutional and legislative changes in order to bring the protection of family life in Ireland into line with international best practice.

Speaking in Dublin, Professor Kader Asmal, co-founder and first chairman of the ICCL and a former Minister in the first democratic South African Government has called on the Irish Government to prioritise children’s rights in any such future reforms of family law and state policy.

“Families should be valued for what they do rather than how they are labelled. Giving legal protection between children and their gay, lesbian or non-biological parents is first and foremost a question of children’s rights. Quite simply, a child’s best interests are served by recognising and protecting their relationship with their primary carers irrespective of biology, gender or sexual orientation,” he said.

“Ireland has prospered greatly and much has been achieved in promoting human rights since I co-founded the ICCL 30 years ago with Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland. However, there is a pressing need for constitutional reform in Ireland to ensure legislation is child focused rather than the current situation, which only protects traditional families,” he said.

Kader Asmal said he intended to share his experiences from South Africa, which in 1996 became the first country to explicitly include protection from sexual orientation discrimination in its constitution. Significant legal progress has followed, including the Constitutional Court’s decision in December 2005 to open full marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Mark Kelly, director, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, added, “In a mature democracy such as Ireland, all persons – irrespective of their sexual orientation -should be able to regulate their personal relationships in the way that they choose. For some people this may mean that they choose to marry, other may prefer to enter into a form of civil partnership, and there should be legal recognition of their partnership rights of those in de facto couples. These options should be open to everyone living in Ireland, without discrimination.”