This is one of those good news/bad news stories for me. I'm feeling a little conflicted about this. On the one hand, I want to celebrate this major step forward in a very Catholic country.
On the other hand, this new law creates a "separate-but-equal" legal status for same-sex couples at a time when most of western society has recognized that separate is never equal. I'm trying to see this as a step in the right direction.
At some point down the road, in my lifetime, I believe we'll see true marriage equality everywhere.
The Irish Times reports:
The Civil Partnership Bill, which provides legal recognition for same-sex couples in Ireland for the first time, has today been signed into law. The Bill was signed into law by President Mary McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin this morning. It extends marriage-like benefits to gay and lesbian couples in the areas of property, social welfare, succession, maintenance, pensions and tax.
The act also offers additional rights and protections for other cohabiting couples including a redress scheme for financially dependent long-term cohabitants on the end of a relationship. Announcing the signing of the Bill today, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern described it as "one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation to be enacted since independence."
"This Act provides enhanced rights and protections for many thousands of Irish men and women. Ireland will be a better place for its enactment," he said.
"It is of tremendous social significance, for the couples who can now register as partners, for their friends and families - ultimately, for all of us," Mr Ahern added.
Changes to the tax and social welfare code will be made in the next finance and social welfare Bills. The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 is expected to be commenced when those changes take effect. The first civil registrations for same-sex couples are likely to take place early next year.
The Bill was approved by the Seanad by 48 votes to 4 at 6.30pm on Friday July 9th, having completed its passage though the Dáil the previous week.The legislation was widely supported in both the Dáil and Seanad.
The Green Party this afternoon welcomed the singing into law of the Bill.
"Today is a good day for all Irish citizines. This Act is a significant step forward and a stepping stone towards greater equality in our society, said the party's justice spokesman Trevor Sargent.
"I look forward to the first ceremonies that will be held under this Act from next January. They mark an important venture for our society for which we have waited far too long,” he added.