New research into US Census Bureau data has revealed that 1,200 Irish-born gay men and lesbians are living with a same-sex partner in America.

The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy also found that two-thirds of Irish-born same-sex partners are women and 15% are raising children.

The Irish government is expected to bring forward proposals for a form of civil partnerships at the end of this month.

They have been legal in Northern Ireland since 2005.

Gary Gates, Senior Research Fellow at the Williams Institute, said:

“Irish policy makers should look beyond their shores when they consider the possible effects of civil partnership legislation, some of which might be good for the Irish economy.

“Such legislation could help to entice a very talented group of Irish-born emigrants back to their homeland.”

The study also points out that the Irish legislation could make it easier for global companies to move lesbian and gay employees, their partners, and families from one country to another without risking the economic penalties and logistic challenges associated with non-recognition of their relationships.

Gates notes that, “without legal recognition, it can be difficult for partners of gay and lesbian employees to obtain work permits and they can be subject to challenge regarding their parental rights.”

The Williams Institute study also found Irish-born same-sex partners are highly educated. 43 percent have a college degree.

More than 500 Irish born same-sex partners are not US-citizens (presumably Irish citizens) and may be among those most likely to return to Ireland to take advantage of a civil partnership law.

In December Ireland’s Minister of Justice rejected the possibility of a referendum to allow gay marriage, which a coalition of LGBT rights groups in Ireland has called for.

Brian Lenihan said civil partnership was easier to achieve, because gay marriage would require a constitutional change that would split the country.

Article 41 of the Irish constitution says that:

“The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of marriage, on which the family is founded, and to protect it against attack.”

It does not give any definition of marriage itself, and critics argue it does not outlaw gay marriage.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland in 1993.

Both discrimination and incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation are illegal.