[JURIST] The Department of Justice in Ireland published a Civil Partnership Bill [text, PDF; explanatory memorandum text, PDF] on Sunday, extending certain rights to same-sex couples. The bill legally recognizes cohabiting but unmarried couples while stopping short of granting such couples full marital rights. The bill provides for numerous rights such as conveyance of a home. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern T.D., observed, "[i]t provides legal protection for cohabiting couples and is an important step, particularly for same-sex couples, whose relationships have not previously been given legal recognition by the State." Same-sex partnerships cannot be recognized as marriages because of Section 41.1.1 of the Irish Constitution [text, PDF].
Ireland legalized homosexuality in 1993 and joins a growing contingent of countries and US States that recognize same-sex partnerships as either full marriage or civil unions/partnerships. Although a Greek court invalidated in May the first same-sex marriages performed in country, the Swedish parliament passed a same-sex marriage law in April [JURIST reports]. In December, Hungary struck down [JURIST report] a same-sex partnership law by alleging that it would diminish the importance of marriage. In November, the Australian Senate approved [JURIST report] a same-sex equal rights law but did not grant the right to marry.