The Civil Partnership Bill has now been approved by the Seanad (Irish Senate) by a margin of 48 votes to 4. The bill will now go to Irish President Mary Mc Aleese for signature before it can become law. Appeals are being made to President Mc Aleese either to refer the bill to the Irish Supreme Court to test its constitutionality or simply resign rather than sign it.
The four who voted against it in the Senate were one independent Senator Ronan Mullen and three members of Fianna Fail the main government party, John Hanafin from Tipperary North, Labhras O Murchu from Tipperary South and Jim Walsh from Wexford who all resigned the party whip rather than vote for the measure. Amendments tabled by the Senators were also rejected.
The Senators who resigned the whip claimed the Bill was flawed and discriminatory. They sought the introduction of a “freedom of conscience” clause to allow people, such as registrars, to opt out of “facilitating” same-sex civil partnerships; an exemption from sanctions for religious bodies refusing to rent out properties for civil partnership celebrations; and the extension of protection to unmarried siblings living in the same house.
The three Fianna Fail Senators stated in a letter to the Chief Whip
"It is a matter of regret that we conscientiously find this to be the only appropriate avenue open to us, and we would like to offer our apologies to both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice for any difficulties that this might present,".
The Civil Partnership Bill grants long-term, same-sex couples and people co-habiting similar rights to married couples on tax, registration and redress issues but stops short of granting full marital rights.
Irish Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern told the Seanad he was “deeply proud” of the legislation.