The Government’s decision to publish the heads of a Civil Partnership Bill should be warmly welcomed. The proposed legislation dealing with the rights and duties of cohabitants is likely to provoke plenty of debate, if not controversy.
Inevitably the issue of gay marriage will be raised, but the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Dermot Ahern was at pains to stress the Government is staying well away from the constitutional aspects of any marriage reform. That would probably require a constitutional referendum that would be very divisive and could end up getting nowhere.
The proposed legislation will provide for Civil Partnership protection for cohabiting couples — both same sex and opposite sex-couples. The bill aims to establish Civil Partnership Registration for same sex couples, and it will afford certainty as to status of cohabitation agreements.
For unregistered and unmarried cohabitating couples, who have not concluded a formal agreement, it will give protection for a dependent, vulnerable party. This should provide a safety net for people in long-term relationships who might otherwise be very vulnerable at the termination of the relationship.
It recognises that adults do have a right to chose their own lifestyle. It is an Irish solution to an Irish problem.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved