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Achieving Civil Partnerships for Same-Sex Couples

Resource type: Grantee Story

Michael Murphy (left) and Terry O’Sullivan celebrate their civil partnership. Photo: Irish Independent

In June 2011, on a brilliantly sunny afternoon in Dublin, Michael Murphy and his partner of 26 years, Terry O’Sullivan, celebrated their civil partnership. This joyous day came less than a year after the president of the Republic of Ireland made history by signing the law that created civil partnerships for same-sex couples.

The Gay + Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) played a crucial role in securing this legislation. By winning the right to civil partnerships, GLEN helped to change the face of Ireland. As of early 2012, more than 550 same-sex couples from every county have joined in civil partnerships, and support for marriage equality is growing.

As he strolled from the ceremony to a reception with friends, Mr. Murphy, a well-known Irish radio journalist, told the Irish Independent: “It’s a day of history, personal history. We decided to do this to make it easier for others to take the plunge. It’s a new Ireland, a better and healthier Ireland.”

The fight for this new, better and healthier Ireland might never have been won – and certainly not as quickly – without Atlantic’s core support of nearly €2.7 million ($3.3 million) for GLEN over six years. Its staff was free to pursue a broad agenda and lay the groundwork for civil partnerships and marriage.

Atlantic’s commitment is rooted in its Reconciliation & Human Rights Programme’s support of marriage equality in several geographies, including South Africa, where the government legalised gay marriage in 2006 with the support of Atlantic’s grantees.

‘It’s a new Ireland, a better and healthier Ireland.’ – Michael Murphy

Previously reliant on volunteers, GLEN was able to recruit a full-time, top-notch staff of seven, who devoted themselves full time to advocacy. Its staff showed tremendous sophistication in navigating among conservative politicians and gay rights advocates to develop a nonpartisan, national consensus for gay equality. Most remarkably, its hard work resulted in every major political party supporting civil partnership.

GLEN views civil partnership as a stepping stone to full marriage equality, which is its current focus. Civil partnership provides same-sex couples with almost all the rights that opposite-sex couples have, except the right to adopt children. Ireland’s law includes uniform rights in critical areas such as immigration, tax law and health benefits, which U.S. state civil partnership and marriage laws do not guarantee.

Thousands in Ireland are familiar with Mr. Murphy’s voice from the radio, and on the day of his Dublin ceremony, he gave voice to the aspirations of thousands of Irish gays and lesbians by saying that his civil partnership experience made him feel “tremendously affirmed.”


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Related Resources


Human Rights & Reconciliation, LGBT

Global Impact:

Republic of Ireland