Update on the Civil Partnership Bill 2009
The progress of the Civil Partnership Bill 2009 through the Oireachtas continues and today’s Irish Times contains two pieces on the cohabitation provisions of the Bill. As we have documented here and here the cohabitation provisions (i.e. for cohabiting couples who are neither married nor in civil partnerships) attempt to establish a kind of safety net. However, they apply only to ‘qualifying cohabitants’ and there is a serious fear—articulated in the Irish Times by Professor John Mee of UCC—that non-qualifying cohabitants will assume themselves protected when in fact no such protection exists.
For this reason Mee recommends that the cohabitation provisions be removed and the civil partnership scheme progressed through the legislative processes alone. I tend to share this view to some extent as the cohabitation provisions seem seriously flawed. As a political matter, however, I have to admit that I would have some concerns about the potential for the civil partnership scheme to be introduced without the accompanying cohabitation provisions. In addition, at this point I really don’t see any possibility of the cohabition provisions being removed although some amendments may be possible at this stage.
Meanwhile, some time ago, Roman Catholic lobby organisation Cóir released a paper calling for the Civil Partnership Bill to be scrapped in its entirety. According to this document the Bill would damage marriage because of both its proposal to create civil partnerships and its alleged dilution of marriage through cohabitation protections. If you feel the need, the document can be consulted here.
As we noted here and here, second stage debate involved some discussion of a so-called ‘conscience clause’ to absent public servants from performing civil partnerships. If you’re concerned about the potential for this proposal to grow legs and find its way into the final legislation, remember that there are some simple things you can do. 1. Write a letter to the newspaper expressing your concerns. 2. Call/write to/visit your local TD and express your views. 3. Support your unmarried and LGBT friends, family and loved ones through participating in protests or making your support for the Bill and/or marriage equality clear in a variety of other ways. This might include wearing a pin or ribbon of support, placing a sticker/sign of support in your office space, expressing your support in conversation etc.
Why all the renewed activity? Well, it’s because the Civil Partnership Bill goes to committee stage at 10am tomorrow, March 24th. As always interested parties can follow the debate and commentary as it happens on twitter where the hash tag will be #CPBill