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Labour publishes draft law to allow same-sex civil marriage

Ivana Bacik and by-election candidate Eoin Holmes publish a bill which removes the same-sex ban on civil marriages.

Ivana Bacik says she does not believe the constitution currently forbids same-sex marriage, and that it could be permitted through legislation alone.
Ivana Bacik says she does not believe the constitution currently forbids same-sex marriage, and that it could be permitted through legislation alone.
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

LABOUR HAS PUBLISHED legislation which, if enacted, would permit civil marriage for same-sex couples.

Labour’s Seanad leader Ivana Bacik and Eoin Holmes, who is running in next week’s by-election in Meath East, launched the Civil Registration (Marriage Equality) Bill today.

The legislation proposes to change the existing law surrounding civil marriages, removing a clause which explicitly forbids same-sex couples from availing of a full civil marriage.

An existing law from 2004 says there is an impediment to marriage if both parties are of the same sex – a clause which the Labour members propose to remove. The existing impediments – such as either party being under the minimum age, or already married – would remain in place.

Bacik said the proposals would help to achieve equality between opposite sex and same-sex couples.

The Constitutional Convention is due to examine the issue of same-sex marriage at a hearing next month, ahead of a possible recommendation to amend the constitution so that there is no impediment to full marriage between couples of the same sex.

Though the constitution does not explicitly define marriage as being between a man and a woman, there is divided opinion among legal scholars as to whether the role it gives to ‘the family’ could mean an implicit definition.

Marriage is described as the institution “on which the Family is founded”, and the family in turn is described as “the natural primary and fundamental unit group of society”.

“With the Constitutional Convention considering the issue of marriage equality in April, this Bill provides a simple method for removing the statutory obstacle so as to help enabling that to be achieved,” Bacik said today.

Earlier this month the justice minister Alan Shatter said the constitution’s acknowledgement of marriage meant it would be illegal to extend the provisions of same-sex civil partnership to heterosexual couples.

This was because giving straight couples some of the protections already available to them through marriage, without the obligations of entering a marriage in the first place, would be a breach of the State’s constitutional duty to defend the institution of marriage in the first place.

Read: ‘Unconstitutional’ to grant civil partnership to heterosexual couples

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Gavan Reilly

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