Civil partnerships came into existence in Ireland in 2010 under the ‘Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act’. The first civil partnership was registered on 7th February 2011, five months later a survey revealed that only 7% of same-sex couples believed that marriage and civil partnership were equal.
[pullquote] “A report released by Marriage Equality entitled ‘Missing Pieces’ highlights 160 legal differences between civil marriage and civil partnership. [/pullquote]
The survey, which was conducted by Irish wedding website Mrs2Be, asked if Ireland will legislate for full marriage equality within the lifetime of this current Fine Gael-Labour Government, 55% of respondents said no. However, in this case they were wrong as Irish voters are getting set to vote on a referendum to allow same-sex marriage on 22nd May.
Many people who are currently campaigning for a No vote believe civil partnership is sufficient for same-sex partners and gives them enough rights. One no poster states: “We already have civil partnership – Don’t redefine marriage”. Last month, Keith Mills of the organisation, Mothers and Fathers Matter, said on UTV Ireland, “I personally, because I am a gay man, believe civil partnerships are a better way to recognise same-sex couples.” His reasoning for this was that 70% of marriages take place in a church and this still won’t be available for same-sex couples and secondly, that their marriage would only be recognised in the minority of countries that have legalised same-sex marriage.
However, most LGBT members would disagree with this view. A report released by Marriage Equality entitled ‘Missing Pieces’ highlights 160 legal differences between civil marriage and civil partnership. At the launch of this report back in 2011, author Paula Fagan said, “Civil partnership was heralded as equality in all but name for same-sex couples, but this report firmly and rightly contradicts these untrue claims. Civil partnership is a welcome first step to protect same-sex couples, but it fails to provide equality. Civil partnership dismally overlooks the love, which same-sex couples have for one another and, most ashamedly, it neglects the bonds between same-sex parents and their children.”
[pullquote] “There were very sad cases in the past where people simply did not have full rights. Civil partnership went some way toward addressing that, but not the whole way… [/pullquote]
Earlier this week on NewsTalk Breakfast Tánaiste Joan Burton said that civil partnership goes some way for couples, but she explained why it is not enough. “There are certain rights which go with marriage, for instance that the person they are married to, their husband or wife, is recognised as the next-of-kin… There were very sad cases in the past where people simply did not have full rights. Civil partnership went some way toward addressing that, but not the whole way,” she commented.
- Same-sex couples who register a civil partnership are not recognised as a family unit, whether they have children or not.
- The children of same-sex couples who are in a civil partnership are in a legal vacuum. Civil partnership does not permit children to have a legally recognised relationship with their parents, only the biological one. This causes many practical problems for these families, for example when dealing with schools, hospitals, guardianship, access and custody. According to Marriage Equality, it could possibly mean that a child is taken away from a parent after the passing of the biological parent.
- Civil partnership does not recognise the couple’s rights to some of the state’s social supports that may be needed in times of hardship.
- Civil partners are not automatically recognised as each others’ next-of-kin, which can cause problems when it comes to medical situations and death.
The report states in its concluding words: “The issue at stake is not simply that same-sex couples be given the right to marry, it is more than that. It is the fact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their children are being treated as second class citizens, and that their right to equality and dignity are being compromised by the existing marriage ban.”