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Same-sex partnership law ‘one of biggest changes in 90 years’

Resource type: News

Irish Independent | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

By Fionnan Sheahan.  Same-sex couples will be able to avail of legally-binding civil partnerships for the first time from next year.

The Dáil last night completed its work on the Civil Partnership Bill, which is expected to be signed into law in the autumn.

The Bill passed all stages in the Dáil shortly after 8.40pm, without the need for a vote, and will be sent to the Seanad. There was applause from the public gallery.

Under the terms of the Bill, marriage-like benefits will be extended to gay and lesbian couples across a range of areas such as property, social welfare, succession, maintenance, pensions and tax.

Once the Civil Partnership legislation is fully enacted and implemented, gay and lesbian couples will be able to register their relationship before a registrar, as long as the partners are over 18 and not involved in any other unions.

Couples will be required to provide registrars with three months’ notice of a planned civil partnership, as is the case with civil or religious weddings. Any registrars who refuse to officiate may be prosecuted.

As with divorce laws, courts will be able to dissolve relationships as long as the partners have lived apart for two of the previous three years.

The legislation also provides for the legal recognition of civil partnerships, or their equivalent, obtained in other jurisdictions.

In addition, a court-administered redress scheme is due to be established for both straight and gay unmarried cohabiting couples who have been living together for five years or more.

At present, cohabiting couples – who account for one in 12 of all family units – have few rights under our family laws. Government officials say no formal date for the beginning of civil partnerships has been agreed, as the legislation has yet to be finalised by the Seanad. This is expected to occur within the next fortnight and the legislation is due to be signed into law in the autumn.

In addition, two more pieces of related legislation – covering social welfare and tax changes – must be enacted before civil partnerships are made available. These changes are expected to be signed into law either late this year or early next year. Officials expect civil partnerships will be available shortly afterwards.

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