A civil partnerships bill has now passed both houses of the Irish parliament and will go to the president to be signed into law.

The bill, which grants almost all of the rights of marriage, passed in the Dail last week and was approved in the Seanad last night after two days of debate.

It passed with the support of 48 senators, with just four voting against, and will be sent to President Mary McAleese, who can approve it or refer it to the Supreme Court if she believes it may be unconstitutional.

All parties strongly welcomed the Bill in their closing statements in the debate.

Senator David Norris in his closing statement: “I am proud that this day has come. It is a massive, overwhelming victory. It is a victory, not for gay people nor for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Green Party, Labour or the Independents; it is a victory for decency and for this country.”

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network has welcomed the change in law, although it has repeated concerns that there is not enough recognition and support of children whose parents are gay.

The rights the bill will give include protections and obligations across areas such as protection of the couple’s shared home, domestic violence, residential tenancies, succession, refugee law, pensions, taxation, social welfare and immigration.

All parties supported the bill, although some individual politicians attacked it.

The first ceremonies are expected to be held in January.

Ireland decriminalised homosexuality 17 years ago.