More than 600 activists protested in Dublin’s city centre on Sunday to call for marriage rights rather than same-sex partnerships.
A civil partnership bill will appear before the Dáil (parliament) shortly.
The proposed legislation will grant gay and lesbian couples legal recognition in areas such as pensions, social security, property rights, tax, succession and the payment of maintenance.
The government has ruled out gay marriage, claiming that it would require a change to the country’s constitution and a potentially divisive referendum.
However, campaigners say that civil partnerships are an outdated 1990s construct and that same-sex marriages should be legal.
“The civil partnership Bill is an inferior piece of legislation which does not recognise families or give people the right to adopt their partner’s children,” said Eloise McInerney of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Noise, which organised the protest.
“We don’t want crumbs from the master’s table, we want the whole cake. We want the wedding cake,” she told the Irish Times.
Alternative Miss Ireland organiser Rory O’Neill drew comparisons with the civil rights movement in America, saying: “Sometimes we gays are so happy we got this far, we don’t want to rock the boat. People are telling us that we should be happy sitting halfway up the bus. I am not happy sitting halfway up the bus.
“I want to sit at the front of the bus and if I feel like it I want to drive the bus.”
A poll released in February by campaigning group MarriagEquality suggested there is widespread support for gay marriage.
It found that 81 per cent of those polled believe that all people living in Ireland should receive equal treatment from the state regardless of their sexual orientation.
Six out of ten people believed that denying marriage to lesbians and gay men is a form of discrimination.
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.