A bill to allow civil partnerships in Ireland is to be presented to parliament today by minister for justice, equality and law reform Dermot Ahern.
It would give gay couples many of the rights and benefits of marriage, but not all.
The rights it grants includes ones relating to domestic violence, residential tenancies, succession, refugee law, pensions and immigration.
However, gay rights campaigners have expressed concern it will not give legal support to children being brought up by gay couples and will not allowed a non-biological parent to adopt their own children.
Campaigners have also said that tax and social welfare provisions also are not covered in the legislation. The government has said these would be covered by amendments to the Finance and Social Welfare Bills and to the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill.
Kieran Rose, chair of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, said: “This is a major civil rights reform that will resolve many immediate and pressing issues faced by lesbian and gay couples.
“The government is to be congratulated on bringing forward the bill and we look forward to its enactment as quickly as possible.”
But he added: “A critical omission in the bill is the lack of legal support and recognition of the many children being parented by same-sex couples. GLEN strongly urges the government to address this critical gap as the bill is advanced through the Oireachtas.”
Meanwhile, Changing Attitude Ireland pointed to the Good Friday Agreement, which required Ireland to provide “at least an equivalent level of protection of human rights as will pertain in Northern Ireland”.
Northern Ireland received equal rights for straight and gay couples in December 2005, in line with the Civil Partnerships Act.
The group suggested that the bill could provide a religious opt-out for state-employed registrars who did not want to conduct civil partnership ceremonies. The Catholic Church has been pushing for this exemption but sources have said this would not be allowed under discrimination laws.
A survey of LGBT people published last month by the National Gay and Lesbian Foundation found that respondents were far more concerned about having marriage than civil partnerships.