Showing posts from April, 2015

Us, them and 'we'

The marriage referendum, scheduled for May 22, is now less than 4 weeks away.

I want here to dwell on a particular No side poster (from Mothers and Fathers Matter). It states "We already have civil partnerships; don't redefine marriage".

I am intrigued, in particular, by the 'we'. Who are this 'we'? What does this mean?

Are 'we' everybody?
If the 'we is 'we' as  in 'the public' at large, in fact 'we' don't all have civil partnerships. Only unrelated couples of the same-sex may enter into civil partnership. There is no requirement, admittedly, that the couple be gay. Yet, barring unusual circumstances,* it is very unlikely that many straight people have partaken of civil partnership, not least because it forecloses the possibility of a marriage to an opposite-sex partner.

Are 'we' heterosexual?
If the 'we' means (as it often means) heterosexual couples and heterosexuals generally, then the 'we'…

Unpacking the differences: dissolution of civil partnerships

A short while back I wrote about the remaining differences between civil partnership and marriage. One key difference relates to ending a civil partnership. In short, it is a good deal easier to end a civil partnership than a marriage.

This might sound like an advantage for civil partners, but it arguably underpins the lesser status of civil partnership and the lower regard in which it is held.

Ending a marriage in Ireland is a serious business. The conditions for divorce are laid out in the Constitution, no less, and reinforced by legislation. They cannot be watered down without a further referendum.  You have to have been living apart for 4 of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of the application for a divorce. You have to satisfy the judge that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. You have to show, also, that proper financial provision is made or will be made for both spouses and any children of either or both spouses.

Additionally, as a precondition to lodgi…

What will happen to civil partnership if the marriage referendum passes?

What is civil partnership?

Civil partnership was introduced in 2011, under the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010.

Civil Partnership is confined to same-sex couples only. Both parties must be aged 18 or over, and must not be closely related to each other. They must not already be in a civil partnership or marriage with other people. The process of entering into a civil partnership is very similar to marriage except that there is no facility for recognising a church ceremony. While there is nothing in the Act saying that you must be gay or bisexual, civil partnership legislation was clearly designed to facilitate the formalisation of same-sex romantic unions. Civil partnership confers most if not all of the rights and obligations associated with marriage, though there are some significant exceptions (discussed here).

What will happen to civil partnership if the marriage referendum passes?

The Draft General Scheme of the Marriage Bill 2015 indicat…

Regarding the Other Referendum

The Thirty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution Bill 2015 proposes that the minimum age for the Presidency – currently 35 – be lowered to 21.Notably, 21 currently is the minimum age for election to the Dáil. The referendum is scheduled for May 22, the same date as the marriage referendum. So far, however, it has garnered much less attention than its counterpart.

The current minimum age requirement in Ireland mirrors similar provisions in the US Constitution, under which a candidate for President or Vice-President must be 35.The rationale behind the minimum age requirement would appear to be that the candidate should be sufficiently mature and experienced to hold office.Some commentators, indeed, quite fairly question whether 21 is too young to hold an office so prestigious as that of the Presidency. The matter was considered by the Constitutional Convention, though the outcome was equivocal. 50% of Convention members supported a reduction in the minimum age, but 47% were opposed; hardly…

Civil Partnership v Marriage? Some examples of remaining differences

A claim regularly made in the marriage referendum debate is that civil partnership should be sufficient for same sex couples and that there is no need to extend marriage to same-sex couples. Civil partnership certainly provides extensive rights and obligations. It offers equal treatment with marriage, for instance, in the context of taxation, social welfare, pensions, citizenship, immigration, property, domestic violence, and maintenance. Largely equal treatment applies in the context of succession (inheritance) and remedies following dissolution. It delivered a number of vitally important, and in some cases urgently needed protections for same-sex couples.
Civil Partnership differs from marriage, however, in a number of respects. Many of these differences initially related to children being raised by civil partners, though most of these particular differences have been eliminated by the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2015. Other differences in the original Act have been remove…