A new civil partnership bill in Ireland
will give gay and lesbian couples some of the rights of marriage,
The new law grants new legal rights to
unmarried couples – gay or straight – in a long-term
The move is seen as a huge step for the
traditionally Catholic country.
“This is an historic civil rights
reform that will resolve many immediate and pressing issues faced by
lesbian and gay couples and the minister and the government are to be
congratulated,” Kieran Rose, chairman of the Gay and Lesbian
Equality Network said in a statement.
Ireland was one of eleven European
Union member states which did not recognize gay couples. In 2003, the
European Court of Human Rights upheld the right of unmarried gay and
lesbian couples to be recognized equally. But Ireland had also
refused to recognize heterosexual unions outside of marriage.
Ireland is governed under a
power-sharing deal with the United Kingdom, which grants civil unions
for gay and lesbian couples (including Northern Ireland since 2005).
Activists have unsuccessfully attempted to gain recognition for gay
unions by arguing the state is duty-bound under the agreement.
“This bill provides legal protection
for cohabiting couples and is an important step, particularly for
same-sex couples, whose relationships have not previously been given
legal recognition by the state,” Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said
in a statement.
Ireland decriminalized being gay in