Recognition of same sex unions must be priority for 2007
The Leader of the Labour Party, Pat Rabbitte TD, has said that the issue of legal recognition of and proper protection for couples in same sex relationships must be a priority for the Oireachtas in 2007.
“I am confident that the our society has matured and attitudes changed sufficiently to the point where the majority of our people would have no problem with legislation that would provide same-sex couples with the same basic rights and duties that are available to married couples.
“Shortly before Christmas, my colleague Brendan Howlin TD, published, on behalf of the Labour Party, a private members bill that would create a status relationship equivalent to marriage for the benefit of people who are of the same sex and who, under the current constitutional understanding of marriage, cannot marry each other. The Bill provides that, in most respects, the rules of law applying to marriage would also apply to civil unions.
“If passed, this Bill would have an immediate, significant and practical impact on the everyday lives of gay and lesbian couples. Those who choose to enter into a civil union would enjoy vital legal rights which married couples take for granted, in areas such as inheritance and taxation. The Bill would bring to end many of the routine forms of institutionalised discrimination that exist in our society and which impinge on in a very real way on people’s lives.
“The Bill will be brought on to the floor of the Dail early in the new year, a step that will mark a watershed in our social and legislative history. This will be the first time that the Dail will have been given an opportunity to debate legislation providing for the legal registration and recognition of civil unions between persons of the same sex.
“The Labour Party has a long and proud record of driving the equality agenda in this country. The constitutional amendment providing for divorce and the legislation reforming the availability of contraception are legacies of Labour Party Ministers, while Labour also provided the political impetus that led to the decriminalisation of homosexual activities between consenting adults. Our Civil Unions Bill is entirely consistent with that tradition.
“We have produced this Bill because we are committed to the principle of full equality for gay and lesbian citizens and particularly for those in same sex unions. While both the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste have both made sympathetic noises, I do not see any willingness on the part of this government to tackle the issue. Indeed despite the publication in November of the Report of the Working Group on Domestic Relationships, chaired by Anne Colley, the government has not given any commitment on the introduction of legislations to provide for civil unions and appears determined to kick the issue into touch until after the general election.
“This must not be allowed to happen. Great distress was caused to many of our citizens in the past by long delays in the introduction of social reforms that have now become accepted as the norm. This must not be allowed to happen in regard to gay and lesbian citizens. The Oireachtas must rise to the challenge by enacting this legislation.
Well done to the Labour party! I shall be watching the progress of this bill with interest!