Partnership laws come into force

New laws allowing same-sex couples to register their civil partnership have received a mixed reception as they come into force…

New laws allowing same-sex couples to register their civil partnership have received a mixed reception as they come into force today.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) described the Civil Partnership Act as a "new dawn" for gays and lesbians in Ireland, but another group condemned the Government's failure to give full marriage rights to same-sex couples.

LGBT Noise criticised the lack of parental rights for homosexuals and called on the Government to follow the example of other countries and "open up the choice of civil marriage to all citizens".

The Act provides for the legal recognition of same-sex relationships and for granting certain protections to cohabiting couples when they break up through separation or death.

It provides for similar rights for same-sex as for married couples in relation to property, social welfare, succession, maintenance, pensions and tax. It also provides for the dissolution of such partnerships.

Last month, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern signed the commencement order allowing the law to come into force on January 1st. The first applications are likely when registry offices reopen on Tuesday.

Three months' notice must be given of a civil partnership, unless a special exemption is sought from a court, where it is likely to be granted where a partner is ill or other circumstances make the recognition of the partnership urgent. Unless such exemptions are sought, the first ceremonies are likely to take place in April.

Glen chairman Kieran Rose said the new laws would allow same-sex couples to have formal recognition, protection and support for their relationships.

"Civil partnership opens up a new vision for their relationships and their lives and creates the legal framework for a more secure future," he said.

Mr Rose also paid tribute to the "significant contribution" made by former taoiseach Bertie Ahern in advancing civil partnership legislation.

LGBT Noise said the legislation offered no way for parents to create protected legal bonds with each other as parents or with their children. This would deny non-biological parents the right to make educational and medical decisions regarding their children.

"Parents will be taxed as a couple but denied their parental rights as a couple," said spokesman Max Krzyzanowski. "Noise believes that even if partnership offered all the benefits of marriage it would still be discrimination, as a separate system for gay people cannot be called equality."

Some same-sex couples will enjoy the privileges available under the Act from today, as it provides for the recognition of legal arrangements from other jurisdictions.

The Department of Justice has drawn up a list of 27 jurisdictions, including the UK and Canada, from which civil partnerships will be automatically recognised.

Church of Ireland Canon Charles Kenny of Changing Attitude Ireland welcomed the Act, but called for it to be upgraded to match what has been available in Northern Ireland since 2005.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.