A forum that advises the Irish government on equality and social inclusion has said that there has been progress on gay rights in the past five years.

The National Economic and Social Forum’s Fifth Periodic Report includes commentary of progress since the publication of NESF Report 27 “Equality Policies for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People: Implementations Issues” in 2003.

The forum highlighted areas for further action including legal recognition of same-sex couples parenting children and the need for measures to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.

“There has clearly been significant progress for lesbian and gay people since the NESF first published its report on equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in 2003,” said Eoin Collins, director of policy change at Ireland’s leading gay rights group, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network.

“The Government has committed to enacting comprehensive civil partnership legislation for same-sex couples which will resolve many immediate and pressing issues faced by lesbian and gay couples.

“The NESF importantly highlights the need for further action to make schools safer learning environments for lesbian and gay students or those perceived to be so.

“This is a significant area of concern given that that a Department of Education and Science funded study in 2006 showed that 79% of teachers were aware of homophobic bullying in their schools but the overwhelming majority of schools have no policies in place to tackle this issue.”

An organisation that lobbies for full civil marriage rights for same-sex couples in Ireland has attacked the government’s civil partnership proposals.

MarriagEquality said that proposed legislation published last month will leave the children of lesbian and gay parents “in limbo,” with no constitutional or legal recognition, or protection.

The group also claims that by creating a separate legal status for same-sex couples, the government is reinforcing inequality.

“Civil partnership is being dubbed as ‘marriage-like’, but marriage entitlements afforded to heterosexual couples will be denied to lesbian and gay couples under the proposed scheme,” MarriagEquality said.

“The human right to marry must be extended to lesbian and gay couples now.

“Civil partnership should have been introduced to Ireland for all straight, lesbian and gay cohabiting couples many years ago.

“Introducing civil partnership as the only option for lesbians and gay men is discriminatory.”
The group rejects the government’s assertion that the Irish constitution limits marriage to a man and a woman.

“MarriagEquality shares the opinion of some of Ireland’s finest constitutional lawyers who see no constitutional impediment to providing marriage equality.

“There is no substance to the argument that full equality for same sex couples is unconstitutional.

“The Government are saying that Irish people are not ready for lesbians and gay men to marry in a civil ceremony but we have research that supports a very different view.

“There has been a huge public shift in recent times on the issue.

“Almost 60% of Irish people think that lesbians and gay men should have the option to marry.

“Furthermore, an overwhelming 86% of people agreed that children of gay and lesbian parents should have the same family rights as other children.”