Government ministers are warning gay campaigners not to get too excited after to a landmark decision yesterday saw the Irish government agree to compensate a gay man for taking unpaid leave from his job to care for his partner.
Equality campaigners hailed it as “important recognition” for same sex couples but the Minister for Social and Family Affairs Seamus Brennan insisted that the case would not set a precedent.
The case was being taken by a gay man in relation to the refusal of an adult dependent allowance for his partner under the claimant’s invalidity pension.
The claimant is in receipt of invalidity pension from the Department of Social and Family Affairs. He is permanently unfit for work due to a terminal illness and has a life expectancy of less than two years.
His partner took unpaid leave from his full time paid employment to take care of the claimant and expected to be entitled to qualify for an adult dependent allowance on the claimant’s invalidity pension. Such an adult dependent allowance is payable to unmarried heterosexual couples.
An application to the Department of Social and Family Affairs for this adult dependent allowance was refused on 10th March 2005. This decision was appealed and a complaint was then lodged with the Equality Tribunal under the Equal Status Acts. Subsequently, the support of the Equality Authority was sought and granted.
Both the claimant and his partner suffered significant stress on account of this refusal. It interfered with the necessary care of the claimant, and his partner had to return to employment.
On foot of correspondence between the Equality Authority and the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Department agreed to make an ex-gratia payment in respect of the adult dependent allowance to include arrears due arising from their initial refusal to make the payment.
Niall Crowley, chief executive of the Equality Authority, said it shows the importance of recognition for same sex couples in Ireland, “The outcome of the case reflects an important recognition for same sex couples and their relationships. The case highlights the difficult and stressful situations that arise for gay and lesbian people in the absence of a legal recognition for their relationships.
However, Mr Brennan appears to have toned down the excitement after telling the Irish Times that a weekly allowance for the men is unlikely.