Gay and lesbian couples will be given the right to civil partnership style unions, according to a report unveiled by the government.

Ireland’s cabinet has been considering same sex unions this week and has come up with a registration system, but the State has refused to allow gay marriage.

The report of the Working Party on Domestic Partnerships, unveiled by Justice Minister Michael McDowell recommends a “presumptive scheme,” giving legal recognition to couples who have lived together for three years or if they have children.

The report said: “Under a presumptive scheme, couples living together for a specified period would automatically acquire rights and responsibilities towards each other unless they can prove an intention to exclude themselves from such a scheme.”

The report deliberately avoids terming it as a marriage, “Introducing civil marriage for same-sex couples is likely to be vulnerable to constitutional challenge given the special position it is afforded in the Constitution and the interpretation of the definition of marriage in constitutional actions before the courts that marriage is the voluntary and permanent union of one man and one woman.”

It concludes that civil partnerships would “address the majority of the issues encountered by same-sex couples.”

Unlike in the UK, the civil partnership scheme would apply to both same sex and mixed couples.

The report also said same sex couples in civil partnerships should be allowed to adopt.

It will now await a start date to be considered by the government.

The report comes after several surveys have revealed an increase in support amongst the population for same sex unions.

An Irish lesbian couple are currently awaiting a Dublin High Court judgement on the validity of their Canadian marriage.