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Same-sex marriages (SSM), civil unions, etc.

Outline map of Ireland1

Part 1:
1993-2012. Ireland: Same-sex marriage
Timeline of events. Civil partnerships.
Polling data shows 75% support for SSM.

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picture of two grooms Timeline of events from 1993 to 2008:

  • 1993: Ireland decriminalized consensual same-sex activity between adults in private.

  • 2004-SEP-11: Ann Louise Gilligan and Katherine Zappone, a lesbian couple, had married in British Columbia in 2003-SEP. Zappone is a member of Ireland's Human Rights Commission. Gilligan is a Dublin lecturer in philosophy. They had been together for 23 years in Brittas, a beachside resort south of Dublin. They returned to Ireland and petitioned the High Court to have their marriage recognized throughout Ireland. They also sought clearance by the Revenue Commissioners to allow them to file their income tax forms as a married couple. In Ireland, tax for married couples is lower than for singles. Spouses also pay lower inheritance taxes in the event of the other spouse dying.  Their lead lawyer, Gerard Hogan, argued that neither the 1937 Irish constitution nor more recent tax laws specifically define marriage as between one man and one woman.2

  • 2004-OCT-18: The all-party Oireachtas' (National Parliament) Committee on the Constitution conducted a review of family related clauses in the Constitution of Ireland. Part of the review involved rights for same-sex couples. The committee heard from a variety of groups and legal experts. They planned to report to the government by 2005-JUL. Possible options that they might pass on to legislators may include the abolition of marriage, the introduction of a civil partnership, opening marriage to include same-sex unions, or introducing different categories of marriage.

    Ms. Jan O'Sullivan of the Labour Party said her party would:

    "... favor gay couples having the same rights that everyone else has, whether you call it marriage or something else. We feel the option should be available to gay couples."

    Barry Andrews of the Fianna Fil party also favored recognition of gay marriages. But he foresaw problems related to adoption and other family rights. 3

    Also in 2004, the Civil Registration Act was passed. For the first time this legislation restricted marriage to a union of one man and one woman.

  • 2006-DEC: The High Court issued its ruling in the Gilligan and Zappone case. They determined that the Irish Constitution intended that marriages were to be limited only to unions of two persons of opposite sexes. 4

  • 2008: A poll of persons 18 years of age or older found that:
    • 63% believe that denying civil marriage to same-sex couples is a form of discrimination.
    • About 52% favored an amendment to the laws to allow same-sex couples to marry. 5

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2010: The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act, was passed:

This law allows same-sex couples aged 18 or above to enter into a civil partnership. This is similar to a domestic partnership in the U.S. It is missing many of the privileges, benefits and protections automatically given to married couples.

The first civil partnerships took place during 2011-Spring.

A pro-LGBT group called "Marriage Equality" identified 160 statutory deficiencies in civil partnerships which were available for married couples. The group wrote:

"The children of lesbian and gay parents are in legal limbo in Ireland. Under the Civil Partnership Act, there is no provision for adoption or guardianship of children who are being parented by same-sex couples. In addition, there are no provisions for custody, access, or maintenance payments for children.

Furthermore, a child's de facto parent may not be treated as next of kin in a hospital or school situation, because they are not recognised as a legal parent. ..."

"The fact is, banning same sex couples from civil marriage does not stop same sex couples from having children. All it does is stop these families from being recognised in Irish law, and therefore stops children from being protected." 6

It is hard to imagine a situation in which a parent and child from the same family are considered "legal strangers" by the law -- as roommates. That can only be a continuous source of concern for same-sex parents.

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2012: Polling results and a new lawsuit to recognize out-of-country marriages:

2012-NOV: Millward Brown Landsdowne conducted a poll in late 2012 on behalf of Marriage Equality -- a LGBT-positive advocacy group in Ireland. It showed that a major increase in support for SSM among the public had occurred since a previous poll four years earlier.

The poll concluded that:

  • 72% believed that denying civil marriage to same-sex couples is a form of discrimination.

  • 71% favored an amendment to the laws to allow same-sex couples to marry.

  • 75% said they would vote yes in a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples. 88% of young adults aged 18 to 24 said that they would vote yes. 5

These are remarkable values. In the U.S., only a bare majority of adults supported same-sex marriage back in 2012.

Moninne Griffith, director of Marriage Equality, said

"We are delighted [that] the upcoming Constitutional Convention has established a date for the issue of providing for marriage equality..." 5

"Public support for marriage equality has increased year on year. When we began our work in 2006, 51 percent of people believed same sex couples should be allowed to marry. That figure has grown 25 percent[age points] in just 6 years, to a full three quarters of the population today."

€œPeople all over Ireland know that marriage equality is about truly Irish values like justice, equality, fairness, and respect for each other. This is our chance to do the right thing, and be leaders in the movement for marriage equality. The polling shows Irish people want this. Ireland is ready, with a strong majority of Irish people who think same sex couples should have the right to marry the person they love." 7

JUN-06: Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan and Senator Katherine Zappone launched a second lawsuit, again trying to have their Canadian marriage recognized in Ireland. They were being classified only as civil partners. 8 They were not successful

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This topic continues in the next page

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Outline map of Ireland was supplied by See: Used by permission.
  2. Andrea Botha, "Irish Ruling on gay marriage," 2004-SEP-11,, at:
  3. Liam Reid and Joe Humphreys, "Gay marriage under focus in review of family rights," The Irish Times, 2004-OCT-18, at:
  4. "," 2007-FEB-23, RT News, at:
  5. "Millward Brown (Lansdowne) Polling Highlights 2012," Marriage Equality, at:
  6. "Marriage v Civil Partnership FAQs," Marriage Equality, at:
  7. Brody Levesque, "Poll: Support for marriage equality in Ireland increases to 75 percent." LGBTQ NATION, 2013-JAN-30, at:
  8. "Countdown to KAL," Marriage Equality, at:


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Site navigation: Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM Menu > Ireland > here

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Copyright 2004 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004
Latest update: 2014-MAY-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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