Why marriage?

Marriage offers many legal benefits and responsibilities that protect families. Some of the most significant ones currently denied gay and lesbian couples include:


Married couples' relationships have constitutional protection and recognition affording them more respect and a higher status than unmarried couples' relationships.

Tax, Social Welfare, Insurance and Pensions

  • Married couples are assessed differently to unmarried couples for purposes of income tax.
  • Currently there is no tax payable on any transactions between married people. This exemption does not apply to unmarried partners.
  • Married partners are entitled to a range of social welfare payments that are denied unmarried couples.
  • Many insurance and pension policies specify that only a spouse may be nominated as a beneficiary. Unmarried partners have no entitlement to the proceeds.


  • A child with married parents benefits from the fact that his or her parents' relationship is recognised by law and receives legal protections.
  • Non biological parents have no automatic rights to guardianship or custody of children born to them and their partner.
  • Married couples are the only family grouping entitled to adopt.


  • Marital status affects your rights to inherit from your partner. If you are not married you may only inherit if you are named in a will or if you jointly own property.
  • Married spouses pay no Inheritance Tax on anything they inherit from their deceased spouse. Unmarried surviving partners are taxed at 20% on everything inherited above approximately €25,000.


- When a married couple separates they can come to a voluntary arrangement in relation to maintenance. Unmarried couples may make informal agreements when they separate but as they have no rights to maintenance in law they have no access to the courts to enforce them.
- When an unmarried couple separates, a non biological parent cannot be compelled by the courts to pay any maintenance for the child or children that he or she may have parented.


  • A spouse may have hospital visitation rights and can make medical decisions in the event of illness or death
  • Employers often offer health insurance to employees and their spouses but not to their unmarried partners.
  • In the circumstances of a spouse's death the surviving spouse has a right to make funeral arrangements.

Family Home

  • Married partners are legally protected against their spouses mortgaging or selling the family home without their consent.
  • A married spouse is automatically a successor to a tenancy agreement. An unmarried cohabiting opposite sex partner also has access to tenancy rights. This does not apply to same sex partners.


  • Married couples are treated more favourably than unmarried couples in the family reunification process.