Ireland does not currently even have any laws regarding same sex unions, but the country’s Green Party has today vowed to introduce total equality between the gay and straight community by promising same-sex marriage, civil partnerships for both same-sex and heterosexual couples, and legal rights for couples who live together.

The Party believes legislative changes are necessary to ensure equality for all, to offer protection for the contemporary family and to provide a legal framework in areas including taxation, inheritance and maintenance.

Launching the policy in Buswell’s Hotel, in Dublin today, Green Party Justice, Equality and Law Reform spokesperson Ciaran Cuffe said the proposals would update the Irish Constitution, “Marriage plays a vital role in our society, but many aspects of this institution have changed since our Constitution was adopted in 1937. The Green Party believes it is necessary to update legislation to provide for the contemporary times we live in.

The move would bring comfort to Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan who were married in Canada in 2003 and are currently trying to get their union to be recognised by the Irish government too.

Mr Cuffe added, “We believe that same-sex couples should have the opportunity to marry and we propose to introduce a bill that would make all terms connected to marriage in the Constitution gender neutral.

“The Irish Constitution already states that all citizens must be treated equally, and marriage itself is recognised as a human right by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”

He also promised support for married couples such as pre marriage courses and counselling.

Green Party Women’s Affairs spokesperson Bronwen Mahers said the law would provide protections for people who choose to live together but not marry, “In the past two decades Ireland has seen a great increase in the number of couples who choose to live together without getting married. Currently, these couples are offered no protection under the law. This has led to many hardships and difficult circumstances in situations where a partner dies or where the couple separates.

“The Green Party believes that protection should be put in place in areas such as pensions, social welfare, maintenance, and property and succession rights. This protection would apply when a couple have been living together for three years or more or if a couple have been living together and have a child.

“The social welfare code should also be changed to allow same-sex couples living together the same recognition as heterosexual couples.”