FF Senator leads move to deny gay couples right to register

 

A GROUP of Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators is seeking to reverse a Government decision to allow gay and lesbian couples register their relationships with the State.

A party motion put forward last night by Wexford-based Senator Jim Walsh demanded that nothing should be done in the upcoming Civil Partnership Bill that would in any way lessen the "special status" enjoyed by heterosexual marriage under the Constitution.

The issue is to be discussed at next week's meeting of Fianna Fáil's parliamentary party, and the Government is likely to ask the parliamentary party's justice committee to consider it.

Last night, senior backbench TDs and Senators said they believed that between a dozen and 30 members of the parliamentary party had signed Senator Walsh's motion. The Senator himself did not return calls from The Irish Times last night.

The language used in the motion, which focused on the need to maintain the special place of heterosexual couples, has been deliberately chosen in a bid to ensure that the signatories can reject allegations that they are seeking to discriminate against same-sex couples in any way.

"The motion would have considerable support from the more conservative sections of the parliamentary party," said a senior Senator last night, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"I don't see any great need to legislate in this area. I have my own views on it. Let people do what they want, but I don't see the need to be putting things into the statute book," said another, who equally would not be quoted by name.

Under the parliamentary party's rules, motions for debate for meetings have to be lodged with the group's chairman, Louth TD Séamus Kirk, by the previous Thursday.

The Cabinet cleared the heads of the legislation last Tuesday, and a full Bill should be ready to go before the Houses of the Oireachtas in six months and to be law within about a year.

The Civil Partnership Bill would give gay and lesbian couples greater rights and control over pensions, inheritance and tax, but it would not allow same-sex couples to adopt.