This is a “momentous” piece of Legislation

Marriage by jcoterhals on Flickr
Image by jcoterhals on Flickr

Last night I attended the GLEN briefing on the Civil Partnership Bill, hosted by the Cork Gay Project and It was a very interesting meeting and I certainly learned a lot! We were given a 3 booklets on the Bill and I am currently working my way through them and they are fascinating. The speakers were Eoin Collins, Director of Policy Change at Glen and Dr Fergus Ryan, head of Law at DIT.

A few things struck me last night during the talks by the speakers. One of those was what they called this bill. They called it “momentous”, “profound”, “substantive” and “the biggest change to family law”. A few other things that caught me were that we must “accept progress along the way” (that’s directed at you Marriage Activists) and that we need to focus on “whats in the Bill” (I got flashbacks to the Lisbon Campaign when that was said).

We are going to get this bill whether we like it or not. But this bill will do a lot for Gay and Lesbian Couples (or same-sex couples as they are called). The bill will confer rights and obligations that are equivalent to marriage. It will help to equal the playing field between same-sex couples and opposite sex couples, who at the moment, even if unmarried are better protected under Irish Law.

Just a quick note, remember that the Civil Partnership scheme in the Bill only applies to same-sex couples, while the presumptive cohabitation scheme will apply to both same-sex and opposite sex couples.

So a quick did you know about the Bill.

Did you know you don’t need to be Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual to enter into a Civil Partnership?Under the bill at it stands the Civil Partnership must be between two people of the same sex and not related (ie: Father and son, or brothers etc)

Did you know you have to take vows under the bill? Under the bill a Civil Partnership Ceremony must take place in public in front of two witnesses and vows must be said.

Did you know Divorce (dissolution) is easier for a Civil Partner? Under the bill to get a dissolution you must be living separatelyfor two out of previous three years. To get a Divorce under marriage you need to living separately for four of the previous five years. There is also no clean break in a Gay Divorce, just like in a Straight Divorce.

There are a few distinctions without a difference between Marriage and Civil Partnerships but legally there is not a whole heap of difference.

But Tax, Social Welfare and Immigration aren’t dealt with in the Bill!

And rightly so. If Tax and Social Welfare were dealt with in this bill it would have to be certified as a money bill. This means the Seanad would have only 21 days to look at the bill and the Dáil can over rule it a lot easier. It is important that the bill is being dealt in the way that is. Provision will be made under the Finance Bill and Social Welfare Bill to make changes.

As for immigration, there is a bill dealing with immigration currently before the Oireachtas. This can easily amended to provide for Same-sex couples.

What is wrong with the Bill?

The bill does have a number of deficiencies. It does not deal with children adequately nor does it deal with citizenship. These can be remedied through the stages of the bill in the Oireachtas and Senators David Norris and Ivana Bacik have committed themselves to putting an amendment on Children forward.

What is right with the bill?

The bill will give more rights in the following ares:

  • Shared Home
  • Visitation Rights
  • Succession
  • Maintenance
  • Equality (introduction of Civil Status)
  • Domestic Violence
  • Right to sue for Wrongful Death
  • Pensions
  • Ethics
  • Tenancy

The bill will amend over 130 pieces of legislation. It will allow the law to play a role when people need it most, on illness, separation and death.

This bill is needed now. It would be cruel to dismiss it for something that we might get further down the line. That is the problem we don’t know when, we don’t how, and we think a referendum will be needed. Could you imagine the COIR posters if there was a referendum on Gay Marriage??

This is one of the biggest reforms of family law to be undertaken in Ireland. Hopefully this bill will start a train of reform in Irish Family Law, which is sorely needed!

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Author: Stephen

Cork born and bred, proud European and Irishman. Involved in many organisations and politics. Also writes for and UCC Express.

8 thoughts on “This is a “momentous” piece of Legislation”

  1. This Bill does not give people options now. Because it is so complex and partial, it might be finished in late 2010 or 2011 optimistically. The social welfare, immigration aspects etc are still only vague promises. This bill has been crawling its way along for more than 3 years now. It follows the Colley Options Paper which was published 3 years ago and the group was established in March 06. If the government falls any time soon, so does this bill and I don’t think the govt parties would shed too many tears.

    The Labour bill was perfectly simple and could have been enacted (and could still be enacted) in shorter timeframe

    1. Joe, we would have to wait even longer for marriage! Thsi bill was not published 3 years ago. The scheme was only published last year and the bill only this year. Its very heavy stuff and has a lot to do. From the way I see it, the more complex the better as it means it will more then likely that it will be harded to challenge.

      Tax etc may be vague promises but Marriage at this point isnt even a more vague promise!

      Vlad, spellings are corrected. I was typing this up quickly before class this morning. Do you know how law works? The law only plays a role when its needed. Marriage onle plays a role when needed and it plays a big part in the areas surrounding Illness, Separation and Death.

      Secondly, as I am fed up of saying, you are not a second class citizen. The only thing that makes you one, is yourself. As for immigration, the rights of De Facto couples are recognised in Irish Law, and the Immigration Bill will deal with the issues around Civil Partnership.

  2. First, do you mind correcting the misprint in Ivana Bacik’s first name?

    Second, in addition to what Joe said already, a part of your post that makes me really uncomfortable is that It will allow the law to play a role when people need it most, on illness, seperation and death. – and it’s not about the word “separation” being misspelled. What people need most, is the law treating them decently when they are alive, – protecting their kids, not throwing their long-term partner from the country because of lack of immigration provision etc. It’s the most hypocritical approach to start taking care of people only at the moments of illnesses/deaths, – will my death suddenly make me a first class society member from a second class one?

  3. Do you know how law works? The law only plays a role when its needed.

    I think you officially beat the world record in patronizing here, and this makes any further discussion… well, if not pointless, then unpleasant enough to avoid it.

    1. Well Vlad, it shows how low your understanding of the law is. You resort to law. Law is the last step. Hence why it only plays a role when its needed. Married couples (And under the bill Civil Partners) dont have to go to Court to uphold every singl right etc unless they are threatened, why because they are upheld in society. That is what the bill will do, allow society to recognise these relationships and treat them accordingly. It will allow the law to play a role when it is are needed.

  4. The bill will cause a huge amount of legal problems for transsexuals – As far as I can see the Bill completely ignores transsexuals

    1. Ian, I think the Bill just compounds the problems for Transgendered people in this state. The bill deals with Legal Gender (the on assigned by Birth Cert) and until that law is changed, evey law passed will just compund things for Transgendered People in Ireland.

      In regards to that artilce! So badly worded! LOL!

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