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Irish gays drum up support for civil unions

PinkNews Staff Writer October 31, 2007
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The leading gay organisation in the Republic of Ireland has called on all political parties in the country to support a bill legalising same-sex civil unions.

The opposition Labour party are to re-introduce the legislation in the Dáil, the Irish parliament, this evening.

Eoin Collins, director of policy change at the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) said the proposed new legislation was a significant step.

“The bill provides a key opportunity to advance the commitment of Government and all parties to enact legal recognition of same sex couples at the earliest opportunity,” he said.

“Thousands of same-sex couples urgently need this legislation so they can get on with their lives.

“Support for the bill is an important recognition of this urgency. A vote for the bill will allow it to advance to committee stage where the issues involved can be teased out and progressed.”

In February an earlier attempt by Labour to legalise same sex unions in the Republic was defeated.

The Irish government said at the time that the bill would not comply with the constitution, but pledged to introduce their own legislation later this year.

Then-Justice Minister Michael McDowell told Irish MPs (called TDs) that the state is constitutionally required to uphold the institution of marriage. Mr McDowell lost his seat in May’s elections.

In June Bertie Ahern was once again sworn in as Taoiseach, or Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, after the Green party agreed to join a coalition government under his leadership.

He has held the position since 1997.

It is the first time the Greens form part of the government – Mr Ahern has a majority of just one in the newly-elected Dáil.

In opposition the party supported the original civil unions legislation.

Labour’s spokesman on constitutional matters, Brendan Howlin, told the Irish Examiner

“While the programme for government says that the coalition will legislate for civil partnership, there is no sign of it attaching any priority to this issue at all.

“I hope the government will not try to dodge the issue as they did in February last and that they will not oppose our motion, thus allowing the bill to proceed towards final enactment.”

In July the Taoiseach pledged to bring in new laws to legalise civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples.

He said that he wanted to move “as quickly as possible” on the issue.

“This government is committed to providing a more supportive and secure legal environment for same-sex couples,” Mr Ahern said.

Senior members of the Green party are reported to be lobbying their coalition partners to prioritise civil unions legislation.

Northern Ireland, as part of the UK, has had same-sex civil partnerships since December 2005.

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