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Irish law body backs legal rights for gay couples


April 28, 2004

DUBLIN — Cohabiting couples, including those in homosexual relationships, should be given a wide range of legal rights according to a report published on Tuesday by Ireland's legal watchdog.

The Law Reform Commission recommended legal rights and protections in areas such as property, pensions, inheritance law, healthcare, tax, maintenance and domestic violence.

Reforms would apply to "qualified cohabitees", defined by the commission as people who live together in a "marriage-like" relationship for a continuous period of three years or – where there is a child of the relationship – for two years.

This includes relationships between same-sex or opposite-sex couples, neither of whom are married to each other or to anybody else.

The 2002 Census showed there were 77,600 cohabiting couples, an increase of 46,300 from six years earlier.

The number of same-sex cohabiting couples increased from about 150 in 1996 to almost 1,300, two-thirds of them male couples.

The commission said "marriage-like" relationships may exist between people of the same-sex. Homosexual partners should be regarded "as being capable of cohabiting" for the purpose of the reforms.

Ireland does not recognize homosexual marriages.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in the predominantly Roman Catholic country in 1993.

The change followed a 1988 European Court ruling that Ireland was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Headed by a judge, the state-funded Commission is an independent body charged with keeping Ireland's laws under review and recommending reforms. – Sapa-AFP


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