The Dáil (Irish Parliament) last night passed the Civil Partnership Bill without a vote, this will now go to the Seanad (Senate) and will be debated there on Wednesday and Thursday next. There will be some opposition in the Seanad, which could hold up the enactment of the Bill but they are unlikely to make any significant impact on its provisions.
The fact that the Ceann Comhairle (Speaker of the House)told the assembly that since there was general agreement on all sides of the house there was no need for a vote is an absolute disgrace. Many Dáil deputies had concerns about the passage of the bill and were conscious that there were calls for a free vote but with the government insisting on using the party whip system they clearly did not wish to be seen by their constituents as being in support of such a radical agenda. The fact that no vote was taken allows deputies to claim they were personally against passage of the Bill.
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.