Mixed response to civil partnerships bill from Ireland’s gay community

PinkNews Staff Writer June 29, 2009
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The largest LGBT rights group in the Irish Republic has welcomed the publication of a bill that provides for a statutory civil partnership registration scheme for same-sex couples.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network said it “strongly welcomed” the Civil Partnership Bill.

“This is a major civil rights reform that will resolve many immediate and pressing issues faced by lesbian and gay couples” said Kieran Rose, Chair of GLEN.

“Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Dermot Ahern and the Government are to be congratulated on bringing forward this complex and comprehensive legislation and committing to its early enactment.”

He added that “all political parties” played a role in “getting us to this point.”

Mr Ahern said:

“Publication of the Bill implements a commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government to legislate for Civil Partnerships.

“The Bill provides very significant rights to civil partners which raises complex legal issues in the context of the special protection which the Constitution guarantees to marriage and in relation to the equality rights protected
by Article 40.1 of the Constitution.

“The Bill has been carefully framed to balance any potential conflict between these two constitutionally
guaranteed rights. ”

However, some Irish LGBT rights groups are unhappy that civil marriage is not on the table, while conservatives have attacked the bill as “undermining marriage.”

At Pride in Dublin on Saturday thousands of people marched, some wearing wedding dresses.

Gay rights group MarriageEquality said that research conducted by Lansdowne Market Research shows that 81% of the Irish public agree that everyone should receive equal treatment from the state regardless of their sexuality.

Grainne Healy, Co-Chair, MarriagEquality, said:

“MarriagEquality want equal marriage rights for lesbians and gay men. Civil partnership is not marriage like, and does not confer marriage like rights on lesbians and gay men who choose to legally register their relationship
through it.

“The civil partnership legislation is deficient on so many levels and discriminates against lesbians, gay men and their children to such an extent that MarriagEquality are calling on to Government to legislate for civil marriage now.”

The Iona Institute, a group that claims to be dedicated to “strengthening society,” condemned the civil partnership legislation.

Speaking on behalf of the Institute, Dr John Murray said:

“The main purpose of family policy is the promotion of the family that is most beneficial from the point of view of the child, and that remains the family based on the marriage between a man and a woman. Family policy is not primarily about the promotion of equality between adults as the Government now seems to believe.

“The special status of marriage is undermined by effectively raising other forms of the family to a similar level to marriage. The Government is clearly moving from a pro-marriage policy to a pro-family diversity model based on an erroneous view of equality.”

The Bill provides for a statutory civil partnership registration scheme for same-sex couples together with a range of rights and duties consequent on registration including maintenance obligations, protection of a shared home, pension rights and succession.

On registration of a civil partnership, the civil partners will be treated in the same way as spouses under the tax and social welfare codes.

The necessary legislative provisions, to be provided for in Finance and Social Welfare Bills, will be brought into effect at the same time as the civil partnership registration scheme commences.

The Bill provides, for unmarried opposite-sex couples and unregistered same-sex couples, a redress scheme to give protection to a financially dependent person at the end of a long-term cohabiting relationship. The
cohabitants scheme will put in place a legal safety-net for people living in long-term relationships who may otherwise be very vulnerable financially at the end of a relationship, whether through break-up or
through bereavement.

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