March for lifting of ban on same-sex marriages told new Bill is inadequate

12 Aug 2009

March for Marriage pic3


GOVERNMENT PLANS to introduce laws on civil partnership have been criticised by the former director of the Equality Authority Niall Crowley.

Addressing a gathering of about 5,000 people in Dublin yesterday, Mr Crowley said the legislation was part of a "backlash" against the equality agenda which had seen some notable gains in recent years, particularly over legislation on incitement to racial hatred.

The civil partnership legislation would do nothing for equality, he maintained.

To loud applause, Mr Crowley said the civil partnerships Bill published by the Department of Justice did not value diversity but merely tolerated it.

Tolerance alone was not acceptable he said, as it was often accompanied by contempt.

The crowd, which had earlier marched from Dublin's City Hall, was campaigning for an outright lifting of the ban on same-sex marriages.

It included gay and lesbian groups, representatives of Amnesty International, the Union of Students in Ireland and others.

A number of speakers gave personal testimony of their bid to get equal rights, and two women, introduced as Mia and Shani, spoke of having to "validate" their relationship to officials of the Department of Justice.

The form of validation was a written testament to their commitment to each other. Mia told the crowd she had felt insulted and demeaned by having to make such a validation to "a bureaucrat with a stamp", but had done so to ensure residency permission for Shani. The women said they felt the process was unequal in that heterosexual couples did not generally have to go through such a process. Heterosexuals could confer citizenship rights on their partners by marriage, they argued.

"Why is my citizenship overshadowed by my sexual orientation. I am either an Irish citizen or I am not. It really is that simple" said Mia.

Pointing to the Department of Justice, Mia said she had been told by people "in there" to write the letters as part "of our application for de facto status".

However, a Department of Justice spokeswoman later said it was standard practice to look for evidence of "a durable relationship" of at least four years when assessing an individual's application for residency.

The spokeswoman said the criteria was not based on marriage, but on a "durable relationship" and marriage alone would not automatically guarantee an individual rights of residency.

"It is evidence-based, and we have always looked upon a durable relationship as evidence. It is a factor. It is not the whole decision," she said.

Under the terms of the Government's Civil Partnership Bill, which is to be introduced to the Oireachtas this autumn, same-sex partners who register their union would be eligible for a range of rights, including joint taxation and residency.

However, the organisers of yesterday's march, the campaign group Noise, claims the civil partnership legislation is in itself a form of discrimination. It plans to continue to campaign for a lifting of the ban on same-sex marriage.

Article taken from the Irish Times.