The two-year anniversary of the day on which Ireland’s civil partnerships system was signed into law by the country’s president has been marked with a call for marriage equality.

In Julu 2010, civil partnerships legislation passed through the Dáil and the Seanad and was signed into law by then-president Mary McAleese, coming into force in January 2011.

Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples have taken advantage of the law since its introduction and the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network has marked the anniversary with a call for equal marriage laws.

Kieran Rose, GLEN Chair said: “We warmly congratulate the hundreds of lesbian and gay couples who have had civil partnerships. Their happy celebrations, in every county in Ireland, have allowed family, friends and community to recognise these committed relationships. Civil Partnership has transformed the lives of these couples and given them enormously greater security, recognition and status.

“Over 750 couples have availed of civil partnership, which has given them marriage-like rights and protections. Many hundreds of other couples have had their foreign civil marriages or civil partnerships recognised as Irish civil partnerships. All of these couples are pioneers who are transforming perceptions of lesbian and gay relationships. They are bringing the day of civil marriage much, much closer.”

Earlier this month, the Deputy Prime Minister, Tanaiste, of Ireland, Eamon Gilmore, told Dublin Pride that the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples the same rights to marry as opposite sex couples.

Mr Gilmore, leader of the Irish Labour Party and deputy prime minister in the coalition government, said that politicians should no longer dictate who people fall in love with or who they decide to spend their lives with.

“I believe in gay marriage,” he said. “The right of gay couples to marry is, quite simply, the civil rights issue of this generation, and, in my opinion, its time has come.”

Today, Mr Rose praised progress made in the Dáil and the Seanad since the civil partnerships system was introduced through actions which have been “critically enhancing” the provisions of the law.

He welcomed the Finance and Citizenship Acts, which provided for further equality in the treatment of civil partners.

He continued: “Public and political support continues to grow for further progress for lesbian and gay couples. Civil Partnership has laid the ground for the introduction of civil marriage.

“With the success of civil partnership, the ‘next stop’ for the wedding bus is civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples.

“Now is the time to move full Constitutional equality for lesbian and gay people by providing access to civil marriage. This is not a massive legislative leap; it is the next step building on the success of Civil Partnership legislation.”

Later this year, a 100-person constitutional convention will meet to examine potential changes to the Irish Constitution and will report to the government on the question of marriage rights for gay couples.