DUBLIN, Ireland – The Minister of Justice Friday published a bill that would grant same-sex couples in the mostly Roman Catholic country many of the rights afforded straight married couples.
The bill will allow same-sex couples to register their civil partnership for the first time and also will recognize other rights and obligations previously denied them. Unmarried opposite-sex couples also will be allowed to register, as will those in non-sexual relations such as cohabiting companions.
According to the Irish Times, “Once a civil partnership is registered, the couple will be dealt with in the same way as a married couple by the Revenue Commissioners.”
“The Bill has been carefully framed to balance any potential conflict between these two constitutionally guaranteed rights. This balance is achieved by maintaining material distinctions between civil partnership and marriage, in particular between the rights attaching to both, while at the same time reflecting the equality rights protected by the Constitution,” Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said.
The bill also establishes a legal safety-net for people living in long-term relationships who might be vulnerable financially at the end of a relationship, whether through break-up or through bereavement, by giving legal recognition to agreements enabling cohabitants to regulate their joint financial and property affairs. A range of rights and duties including maintenance obligations, protection of a shared home, pension rights and succession are all covered under the bill.
Not everyone is satisfied with the legislation’s reach.
Labour’s Brenan Howlin said the bill “falls short” in terms of a commitment to equality.
“The advancing of the social agenda has always been a slow and difficult one for our country. Labour is committed to the achievement of true equality and our own Civil Union Bill, which was twice defeated by Fianna Fail, and their partners in Government, goes much further to achieving this important objective than today’s Bill,” Howlin said.
The bill must goes through the Oireachtas, Ireland’s national parliament, before becoming law.