Irish President Mary McAleese signed the country’s first Civil Partnership bill into law yesterday morning.
The bill extends some marriage-like benefits to same sex couples, particularly in areas such as social welfare, pensions, succession and property. The bill also offers a redress scheme for financially dependent long-term partners ending a relationship.
It does not however, recognise parents in same sex relationships as having custody of their partner’s child, and same sex couples remain unable to jointly adopt.
The bill passed the Dáil Éireann without a vote, and was overwhelmingly supported in the Seanad (Senate) with only 4 votes against, out of 52.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern was ‘deeply proud’ of the legislation, saying it would “provide enhanced rights and protections for many thousands of Irish men and women.”
Despite near unanimous support for the bill, three Senators from the centrist Fianna Fáil party have resigned the party whip in response, claiming the bill is unfair and discriminatory by not including a “freedom of conscience” clause, which would allow registrars and religious organisations to opt out of ‘facilitating’ same sex unions.
While the Irish parliament has not committed to a time-frame for implementation of the reforms, the first ceremonies are expected to take place in early 2011.