ICCL seeks full marriage rights


The Irish Council of Civil Liberties has cautiously welcomed the passing of the Civil Partnership Bill but said deficiencies in the legislation will ensure that same-sex couples will remain unequal in the eyes of the law.

Same-sex couples will be able to avail of legally-binding civil partnerships for the first time from next year following the completion last night by the Dail of the Bill, which is expected to be signed into law in the autumn.

ICCL director Mark Kelly said the Bill would offer a "solid foundation" for the recognition and protection of same-sex relationships which were previously denied to them. However, he described the legislation as  "only a stepping stone on the path to full equality for same-sex couples".

Calling for full civil marriage rights to be extended to same-sex couples, Mr Kelly called on the Oireachtas to "fully embrace" the principles that underpin the Bill and to "urgently work" towards "opening up civil marriage for all".

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) last night welcomed the progress of the Bill through the Dáil as a “historic advance” and a further stepping stone towards full equality. Glen spokesman Brian Sheehan pointed out while the legislation was important, there were still key omissions. For example, it did not provide any right for same-sex couples with children to be legally recognised as joint parents, he said.

The legislation has been criticised by Catholic bishops who say it undermines the institution of marriage. They have also called for a “freedom of conscience” provision which would allow registrars to opt out of officiating at same-sex unions.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern has insisted the law has been carefully drafted to ensure that it does not undermine the constitutional position of marriage.

Glen said there is democratic consensus for the measures which, according to opinion polls, are overwhelmingly supported by the public.