Report seeks Irish gay unions

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Civil partnerships should be implemented in Ireland according to human rights laws, a report recommends today.

The Irish Human Rights Commission produced their findings, which assessed the adequacy of current Irish law with international human rights standards, to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell.

Maurice Manning, president of the Human Rights Commission said: “The authors highlight specific areas of domestic law which require legislative amendment in the light of international standards, as well as predicting that other areas may need revision in the future as the international norms evolve.

“At a more fundamental level, they conclude that there is a compelling case to be made for the State to provide some formal level of legal recognition to same-sex partners”

The report concerns couples cohabiting outside of marriage, including both opposite-sex and same-sex partners.

Ireland has in recent decades experienced significant growth in the diversity of family types outside the traditional norm, including arrangements involving one-parent families and de facto couples. The 2002 Census found just over 77,700 such couples, 29,709 of such family units containing one or more children. Notwithstanding this, Irish law continues to confine many rights and obligations, privileges and immunities to couples who are legally married.

The report looked at legislation, standards and jurisprudence arising from the European Union, the United Nations and the Council of Europe as well as legislation and jurisprudence from Ireland.

“While it is clear that international human rights standards warrant immediate changes to discrete legal provisions, such reforms would, we suggest, be best introduced through an overarching statute providing for relationship recognition. An incremental approach to change arguably gives rise to inefficiencies and potential confusion, in particular the possibility of uncertainty regarding the definition of a de facto couple.

“Failure to instantiate a fundamental change to the legal framework governing relationships may generate adverse litigation outcomes and consequent needs for continual, ad hoc re-alignment between domestic and international laws” said Judy Walsh, one of the authors.