Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ireland Passes Law for Couples Living Together, When Will Indiana?

I make this point fairly often that Indiana has no statute protecting cohabitating adults. I make this point almost as often that such a law would apply to both same-sex and opposite sex couples. I ran across Ireland Gives Gay Couples Civil Partnerships thanks to Google Alerts and it makes clear this same point.

A new civil partnership bill in Ireland will give gay and lesbian couples some of the rights of marriage, Reuters reported.

The new law grants new legal rights to unmarried couples – gay or straight – in a long-term relationship.


“This bill 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,” Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said in a statement.

The Irish Times provides a bit more detail in its Partnership Bill to be welcomed:

The Civil Partnership Bill, which was published by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern last week, caters for two groups of people whose relationships previously had no legal recognition – cohabiting couples and same-sex couples. The former are more numerous, and many people in such relationships may not even realise how vulnerable they are, especially if they are financially dependent. As the law currently stands, if the relationship ends, they have no right to remain in their home, no right to maintenance and will face punitive taxation if they inherit.

The new Bill addresses some of these issues, by ensuring that a dependent partner has certain protections after three years, two if there are children. It provides for succession and property rights, the protection of the joint home, access to law governing the dissolution of the relationship – which is modelled on divorce legislation – and protection under domestic violence legislation. This is a presumptive scheme, in that the rights kick in automatically unless people opt out. They can do so, or make other financial arrangements, in an agreement that will be legally enforceable.


For same-sex couples, who do not have the option of marriage enjoyed by heterosexual couples, there is much more comprehensive provision. The Bill, when enacted, will convey “civil status” on registered partnerships, giving explicit recognition to the relationship. This is of huge symbolic importance, and carries with it a range of rights and obligations, similar, though not identical to, those enjoyed by married couples.

What I find a bit more strange is this:

However, the Bill is virtually silent on the issue of the children who live with same-sex couples. The circumstances in which children come to be living in such households vary, and can include being the natural child of one or other from a previous relationship, being adopted by one partner, or the result of a decision by the couple to have a child through assisted human reproduction.

If Indiana were ever to pass legislation like this, I would expect our existing paternity statutes to apply in this situation.


lucas law center said...

Sam Hasler, good point. Maybe that soon, hope it goes well like what Ireland was.
Thanks for your terrific and candid blog.


jonathan said...

I live outside US and don't know if there is any state that doesn't allow that for partners. Good information.

Sam Hasler said...

Thanks for the compliments. As for the States having similar laws, no most of us do not. Which creates one hell of burden for people living together in Indiana and for us lawyers representing those people.

Alan Brownes Blog said...

As an Irish citizen living on the west coast of Ireland - I wanted to add some additional clarification on the draft Civil Partnership Law (not yet enacted).
I want to highlight that the Irish Governments new proposed Civil Partnership Bill – if adopted – will introduce a whole new layer of discrimination.

There are a number of reasons why I suggest that the proposed bill is discriminatory as follows –
•Separate rights are not Equal Rights – by creating a separate and distinct legal entity of a Civil partnership, equality is not being afforded to gay couples. The people of Ireland overwhelmingly support equal rights (81% of people in Ireland agree that everyone in Ireland should receive equal treatment regardless of whether they are straight, gay or lesbian). In addition 61% of Irish People thought that denying same-sex marriage is a form of discrimination (70% under the age of 50).
•Civil partnership does not deal with same-sex couples and social welfare benefits - The government is planning to address this area in another bill. It is unclear whether the Government plans a new and unequal set of laws.
•Similar to social welfare, the government is drafting separate taxation legislation for civil partners which could once more spell further discrimination for same-sex couples. This would relate to income tax, capital gains tax, capital acquisitions tax and stamp duty.
•Lesbians and gay men have always been and will continue to be loving mums and dads to their children. However, the government has totally ignored children in the civil partnership legislation. There is no provision for guardianship of children who are being co-parented by same-sex couples. In addition there is no provision for custody or maintenance payments for children. Furthermore, a child’s non-biological parent may not be treated as next of kin in a hospital of school situation. In essence there is no legal recognition of the relationship between a child or children and their non-biological parents, they are effectively treated as strangers in law.
•A same-sex couple will not be eligible to apply to adopt a child under civil partnership, even the child or children of their civil partner. Currently a single person, regardless of her/his sexuality is eligible to apply to adopt. It is crazy to suggest a single gay man is an acceptable parent but a gay couple in a long-term relationship and after suitable vetting is not suitable to adopt.
•The home of a gay couple is not protected by the Family Home Protection Act, 1976. This act protects one party in the couple from any actions that might threaten the ownership of the home e.g. securing loans on the home, selling property from within the home etc. This exclusion from protection is discriminatory.

The Irish Governments stance on Marriage versus Civil Partnership for Gay Couples is that a change to the Irish Constitution (fundamental legal framework of the state) would be required. Firstly - The definition of the family has changed drastically since the Irish Constitution was written in 1937 and same-sex couples are a family unit like many others. The Constitution has been changed many times already to reflect the society we live in and our move to a more secular less discriminatory society. Secondly, I do not believe that there is a requirement for Constitutional change. The Constitution does not define marriage as being between a man and a woman, nor does it define the family as being required to be different sexes. Thirdly – even if there was a doubt as to whether or not the Constitution needed to be changed – why not call a Referendum to change the Constitution?

I (along with a lrage number of Irish people) are calling on the elected representatives of Ireland to stand up and be counted and to act on the attitudes of the majority of our state (up to 70%) in dispensing with the Civil Partnership Bill and instead open up Civil Marriage (not religious marriage) to same sex couples.

I hope this provides some additional context as to the current situation (July 2009) in Ireland.

Sam Hasler said...

Thank you for the response and the clarification. I doubt you read more on here but I am trying to collect information here on cohabitation statutes for the gay and heterosexual communities as there is none in our state. Good to have some amplification on what is being missed by relying on the media.