The Civil Partnership Bill 2009, one of the most significant pieces of Irish law in the past few decades, has passed through the Dáil. Therefore, it is destined to become law but will first have to pass the Seanad and receive the Presidential signature. It will probably not take full effect until 2011, when the tax and social welfare laws have been amended in line with it and preparations are made to formalise civil partnerships.
I’ve written before about Part 15 of the Bill, which deals with cohabitants. This has received less attention, understandably, than the civil partnership elements of the law but Part 15 applies to all relationships, whether homosexual or heterosexual in nature. Amendments have been made to Part 15 so that cohabitants will have to live together for 5 years before their rights arise (2 years if dependent children are involved) rather than the original 3 year qualification period proposed in the first draft of the Bill.
Professor John Mee has made a detailed critique of the legislation, primarily pointing out drafting errors and ambiguities in the Bill. He also made general observations that Part 15 might do more harm than good. These points do not appear to have been addressed. Nor does the Minister appear to have amended the title to highlight the cohabitant elements, as was expected. Update: via Maman Poulet I learn that this has now happened and the legislation bears this tongue-twister of a name: the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Bill 2009.
Incidentally, there have been some suggestions (mostly from the odd Fianna Fáil backbencher) that the legislation is a Green Party measure, though Fianna Fáil’s manifesto for the 2007 general election (which predated coalition talks with the Green Party) contained a commitment to introduce the legislation.