Ireland’s civil partnership law came into force at the weekend, although gay couples must wait until early April to hold their ceremonies.

The law was welcomed by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network as a “new dawn” for gay and lesbian couples but other groups said it was not good enough.

LGBT Noise said that only marriage would offer gay couples real legal equality, as civil partnerships do not offer gay parents enough protection.

The group said children of gay parents would lack legal recognition and non-biological parents would not have the right to make educational and medical decisions for their children.

LGBT Noise spokesman Max Krzyzanowski told the Irish Times: “Parents will be taxed as a couple but denied their parental rights as a couple.

“Noise believes that even if partnership offered all the benefits of marriage it would still be discrimination, as a separate system for gay people cannot be called equality.”

Church group Changing Attitude Ireland welcomed the development but said civil partnerships were “second class” and called on new leadership to make changes.

Canon Charles Kenny, secretary of Changing Attitude Ireland, said: “We now call on the new government shortly to be elected to remedy its defects, namely the failure to make provision for the guardianship of children and their adoption by same sex couples.”

The law came into action on Saturday January 1st after Irish justice minister Dermot Ahern signed a commencement order last month.

As is the case with straight couples who wish to marry, gay couples who want a civil partnership have to give three months’ notice.

However, it is expected that some ceremonies will take place before April, for couples where one partner is terminally ill.

Gay couples can begin registering their intent to have a civil partnership today, when registry offices open after the Christmas break.