Civil partnership bill signed into law
GAY and lesbian couples will soon be able to gain legal recognition for their same-sex unions after President Mary McAleese signed a new bill into law yesterday.
Under the terms of the Civil Partnership Bill, marriage-like benefits will be extended to same-sex couples across a range of areas, such as property, social welfare, succession, maintenance, pensions and tax.
But the first civil unions will not be possible until the New Year -- because the tax and social welfare changes have to be made by the departments of Finance and Social Protection.
Kieran Rose, chair of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, described the signing into law of the bill as a great day for the country.
"It is a tribute to the openness and welcoming nature of Irish society and the commitment of all our legislators and is a major civil rights milestone for lesbian and gay people," he said.
Gay and lesbian couples who entered into a civil partnership in the North -- or a gay marriage in the US -- will have their unions automatically recognised once the supporting legislation comes into force in the New Year.
The bill was passed without a vote in the Dail and also won a majority in the Seanad earlier this month.
However, four senators voted against it on the grounds that it damaged the institution of marriage.