Signing into law of new civil Bill welcomed

 

THE SIGNING into law yesterday of the Civil Partnership Bill was welcomed across the political spectrum and also by groups that have campaigned for legal recognition for same-sex couples in Ireland.

The Bill was signed into law by President Mary McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday morning.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said it was “one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation to be enacted since independence”.

The Green Party’s justice spokesman Trevor Sargent also warmly welcomed the development, describing it as a significant step forward and a stepping stone towards greater equality in society.

While the Bill has now been enacted, it cannot fully commence until commensurate changes take place in social welfare, tax and pensions legislation.

Those changes are likely to be made in the Finance Bill and Social Welfare Bill drafted following December’s budget.

The changes will pave the way for the first civil partnership registrations to take place in January next year.

Gay and lesbian couples will benefit from the same rights as married couples in the areas of property, social welfare, succession, maintenance, pensions and tax.

Mr Ahern said the Act would provide additional rights and protections to many thousands of Irish men and women and that the State would be “a better place for its enactment.

“It is of tremendous social significance, for the couples who can now register as partners, for their friends and families – ultimately, for all of us,” Mr Ahern said.

The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 is expected to be commenced when those changes take effect, allowing the first registrations in January 2011.

The Bill was approved by the Seanad by 48 votes to four at 6.30pm on Friday July 9th, having completed its passage through the Dáil the previous week.

The legislation was widely supported in both the Dáil and Seanad, although four Senators, three from Fianna Fáil, and the independent Ronan Mullen, opposed it.

Kieran Rose of the Gay and Lesbian Network said that it was a great day for Ireland.

“Lesbian and gay people, their parents, families, friends neighbours, colleagues can now look forward to celebrating their civil partnerships in the near future,” he said.