Irish minister for justice Dermot Ahern has said he will soon seek cabinet approval for a civil partnerships bill which could be enacted by the end of the year.

He told the Sunday Business Post that the commitment give state recognition and protection to civil partnerships will be ‘‘implemented in full through the forthcoming Civil Partnership Bill, which I will publish within weeks’’.

According to the newspaper, the bill is expected to go second stage debate in the Dáil in the autumn, and will be enacted by December.

Ahern’s statement was welcome by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network.

Its chair Kieran Rose said: “This is an historic civil rights reform that will resolve many immediate and pressing issues faced by lesbian and gay couples and the minister and the government [is] to be congratulated on bringing forward this complex and comprehensive legislation and committing to its early enactment.

“This is a human rights reform whose time has come. All political parties have played a role in getting us to this point and there is huge public support for change.”

However, he raised the question of legal support and recognition for children of same-sex couples, saying: “Inclusion of legal recognition of children being parented by same-sex couples will be critical for the welfare of these children”.

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.

Campaigners say that civil partnerships are an outdated 1990s construct and that same-sex marriages should be legal.