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Sunday 23 October 2016

Same-sex marriage surge set to coincide with civil partnership anniversaries

Published 24/12/2015 | 02:30

Same-sex marriage was made possible by May's referendum Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Same-sex marriage was made possible by May's referendum Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

A surge in same-sex marriages is expected from next April as Irish couples seek to match their marriage and civil partnership anniversaries.

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The prediction came amid indications the number of same-sex marriages since such unions became legally possible on November 16 is proving much lower than some Irish experts had expected.

It had been predicted that upwards of 300 same-sex marriages would take place in the first month after Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald signed the Marriage Act, 2015 into law.

However, while confirmed figures are not yet available, anecdotal indications are that substantially fewer than 200 such marriages have now taken place nationwide.

Co-director of the Yes Equality Campaign, Brian Sheehan, said they never expected an immediate surge in marriages.

"I think same-sex couples treat marriage in the same way as other couples - they treat it with reverence and take great care with their plans," he said.

Mr Sheehan said anecdotal evidence is that a large number of same-sex couples now want their marriage to be confirmed on the same date as their civil partnership.

"Most of the couples that I have spoken to want to get married on the same date as their civil partnership was confirmed," he said.

"They then have one anniversary to celebrate each year.

"Civil partnership ceremonies were also very, very important to couples and were treated very much as if they were a marriage. So it is a special date for most couples."

Civil partnerships became possible in Ireland from April 5, 2011 - and several hundred were confirmed between April and July 2011.

There are now over 2,000 civil partnerships registered in Ireland from April 2011 to June 2015.

Mr Sheehan said he expected the greatest rate of same-sex marriages to occur in Ireland over roughly the same April to July period.

Other factors which have delivered the slower than expected take-up of same-sex marriages are the three-month notification period and the season.

"The weather is a big factor and there's a reason why most Irish people get married over the summer and early autumn months," he added.

Mr Sheehan also pointed out that a significant number of Irish same-sex couples view their marriage as a more private ceremony to their existing civil partnership which, in many cases, was celebrated akin to a wedding.

The new Marriage Act was made possible by the result of the May 22 referendum.

Under the Act, all same-sex couples who married overseas will have those marriages recognised automatically and as a formality by the State.

From November 16, there were no further civil partnerships in Ireland.

All those who secured civil partnerships in Ireland will continue to have that status legally recognised unless they opt to transfer into a new same-sex marriage. If they do so, their old civil partnership arrangement will be dissolved.

Critically, the Government will not be offering an automatic transfer from civil partnership to same-sex marriage status. A couple will be required to attend a registry office, sign paperwork and attend a civil marriage ceremony. There is a special notification period involved.

Of the 1,695 civil partnerships in Ireland registered between 2011 and 2014, 1,048 were between men and 647 were between women.

Irish Independent

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