New legislation to establish civil partnership for same sex couples and recognise civil unions and marriages registered outside Ireland.

Gay and lesbian groups have welcomed reports that planned new legislation establishing civil partnerships for same-sex and cohabiting couples, is likely to provide automatic recognition of civil unions and marriages registered in other countries.

At present, civil partnerships obtained by same-sex couples in other countries are not recognised in any way in Ireland.

Brian Hayes and David Bowman got married in Canada two years ago and while living there they were able to enjoy the legal rights which marriage brings. However, these rights are not recognised in Ireland and they are now treated like any unmarried cohabiting couple when it comes to tax, social welfare, inheritance, pensions and issues surrounding next-of-kin. 

David tells of his recent experience when hospitalised. When asked about his next-of-kin, he named Brian who was labelled by the hospital as a friend and not a husband. 

It's extremely galling. You don't move halfway around the world to be with your friend.

The lack of recognition for their Canadian marriage also means that David, who is American, has no automatic right to live in Ireland. Commenting on the situation, Brian says

It just makes our lives hugely uncertain.

The plans for new government legislation have been welcomed by support groups. For Brian Sheehan of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, same-sex couples need to be treated in the same way as if they were husband and wife. 

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 5 January 2008. The reporter is Will Goodbody.