The Republic of Ireland is considering
a bill that would grant gay and lesbian couples most of the rights
and obligations of marriage.
Debate began Thursday on Justice
Minister Dermot Ahern's Civil Partnership Bill, the Independent
Ahern said the new bill “will change
the legal landscape” for gay couples.
Ireland reversed a law that made being
gay a criminal offense in 1993. Since then, the nation has banned
discrimination based on sexual orientation and opened the military to
gay and lesbian service members. But lawmakers refuse to recognize
gender identity and gay men are banned from donating blood.
If approved, the bill would create a
separate legal framework from heterosexual marriage for gay couples.
The civil partnership, which offers many of the rights of marriage
except adoption, has received a mixed reception by gay rights groups.
Some say the adoption exclusion makes the bill unacceptable, while
other have welcomed the progress.
“This is a major civil rights reform
that will resolve many immediate and pressing issues faced by lesbian
and gay couples,” Kieran Rose, chair of the gay rights group Gay
and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), said in a statement. “The
government is to be congratulated on bringing forward the bill and we
look forward to its enactment as quickly as possible.”
“A critical omission in the bill is
the lack of legal support and recognition of the many children being
parented by same-sex couples,” Rose added.
But the nation's largest gay marriage
Noise, panned the bill. “If this Civil Partnership Bill
becomes law it will force gay couples to participate in their own
discrimination and the children of same-sex couple will remain
vulnerable. The gay community should not be punished for their
sexual orientation by being offered this second-class bill, nor
should their children be punished by the lack of protection offered
within it,” Liam Connolly, organizer of Noise, said in a statement.
Lawmakers say implementing gay marriage
would violate the Irish Constitution.