The Irish Human Rights Commission has welcomed the proposed introduction of civil partnerships.

The Commission said that in the context of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the core principle of equivalence of human rights on both sides of the border suggests that civil partnership in the Republic “should, at a minimum, be akin to the principles within the Civil Partnership Act 2004 in Northern Ireland.”

In Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, civil partnerships have been legal since 2005.

They provide same-sex couples with the same rights and obligations as those attaching to an opposite sex couple, including issues that arise in relation to the care and welfare of children.

The IHRC was asked by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for its views on the Governments proposed Civil Partnership legislation as outlined in the General Scheme (Heads of Bill) published in 2008.

The Commission “welcomes the Government’s intention to acknowledge and respect the dignity and worth of committed same sex relationships and to provide similar protections and supports to those that are available to those in heterosexual relationships.”

Ireland’s leading LGBT rights group GLEN, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, has welcomed the strong support given by the Commission.

“The IHRC Discussion Document is another valuable contribution to public discussion and debate on the proposals by Government for comprehensive legal recognition of same-sex couples,” Eoin Collins, Director of Policy Change at GLEN.

“There is comprehensive support for Civil Partnership across all sectors of Irish society – the public, political parties, the social partners and the key equality and rights bodies.”

Some LGBT groups have demanded full civil marriage.

“Civil Partnerships are not marriage,” MarriagEquality state on their website.

“They are a separate and unequal institution that does not give the same rights to gay and lesbian people as marriage provides for heterosexual couples.

“The Government’s own “Colley Report” commissioned in 2006 to examine partnership options clearly stated that marriage is the only option that would provide full equality for same sex couples.”

The Irish government claims that a referendum to change the Irish constitution would be required in order to legalise same-sex marriage.

Constitutional experts are divided on the issue.