NewsTue Jul 20, 2010 - 12:15 pm EST
Ireland’s Civil Partnerships Bill Signed into Law
By Hilary White
DUBLIN, July 20, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Irish President Mary McAleese signed the country’s first Civil Partnership bill into law yesterday morning. The bill has been heavily criticized by religious groups for its provisions criminalizing conscientious objections by marriage registrars who refuse to conduct civil ceremonies for homosexual partners.
Under the new law, civilly registered homosexual partners will receive most of the benefits of legal marriage, particularly in areas such as tax, social welfare, pensions, succession and property. The law will also offer a redress scheme for financially dependent long-term partners ending a relationship.
Marriage registrars who refuse to conduct the ceremonies, and any individual or group who refuses to rent facilities for them, face criminal charges and a possible six month prison term and up to €2000 in fines.
The law stops short of calling the arrangements “marriage,” nor does it allow homosexual partners to adopt or have joint legal custody of children.
The bill was passed without a vote in the Dail (the lower house of the Irish parliament) and was supported in the Seanad (Senate) with only 4 dissenting votes out of 52.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said he was “deeply proud” of the legislation, saying it would “provide enhanced rights and protections for many thousands of Irish men and women.”
Ahern said it was “one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation to be enacted since independence.”
Only three voices in the Seanad, members of the centrist Fianna Fáil party, were raised against the bill for its lack of conscience protections. In the last general election, all competing party platforms included a homosexualist plank, with most parties supporting the Civil Partnership Bill.
The new law will come into effect in January 2012, after the departments of Finance and Social Protection have made the necessary changes to the tax and social welfare systems.
At the same time, the government announced the launching of a tax-funded program promoting homosexuality throughout the country, particularly in rural areas that were called “underserved” by such programs.
Pat Carey, the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, announced in Dublin today that the program will promote understanding of “gender identity and sexual orientation” in isolated rural communities. It also aims to strengthen the networks of homosexualist activists groups throughout the country.
The program was developed through the collaboration of 11 homosexualist organizations and funded by Atlantic Philanthropies.