An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Wednesday, November 10, 2004  

Gay marriage and cohabitation

You all know I'm a screaming liberal but the issue of gay marriage and the current case in Dublin's High Court presents some difficulties for me.

Firstly, the court case concerns two long term lesbian women in a relationship for well over 20 years. They got married in Vancouver last year and have asked the Revenue Commissioners to legally recognise their marriage for tax purposes (since in Ireland spouses can claim each other's allowances).

I have always had sympathy with long term homosexual couples since they are frequently presented with two difficult legal situations which can make life very awkward for them. They are of course inheritance rights and next of kin rights. I definitely believe that a gay couple should have some avenue to seek legal recognition of their commitment that would provide them with rights, particularly in these two situations. That avenue can only be a civil union of sorts. However, using the term marriage makes people feel really uncomfortable and if I were in the Gay Rights Movement I'd stop using that term and switch to something less contentious like civil union. If the long term gay couple wants the whole romantic dressing up ceremony, they can still do that: there are plenty of non-religious or slightly-religious or just pageant like ceremonies that they can come up with to have their friends and family witness their commitment: people in mixed marriages have had to work this one out for years. So: if its about rights, stop calling it marriage and freaking 'decent' minded people out by dressing up in wedding outfits. Like everything else, in time we'll all get used to and in 10 years you'll be strolling down aisles like everyone else(altho' the universal religious taboos on homosexuality have always made me wonder why gay people would want a quasi-religious ceremony in the first place).

Anyway, what concerns me about the case in Ireland at the moment is that because the Revenue are being asked to define what a marriage actually is, there are possible implications for cohabiting couples: that is, those heterosexual couples who have no legal barrier to marriage (either religious or state) having the same entitlements as those who did get married (ie Godfearing conservatives like myself.....).

I have to confess that I would be a bit pissed off if cohabiting couples did get these rights. For whatever reason, and they are quite entitled to those reasons, and I couldn't care less what those reasons are, they have decided not to commit to either a religious or legal contract with each other. Their commitment is entirely emotional and that's grand. But if they want legal benefits and legal recognition then surely they have to have a legal contract in the first place? How is it consistent to reject the necessity for a contract but then claim the protection of such a contract? If you take a position that you do not require legal recognition of your union then how can you expect to get legal recognition? You're either in or out.

So I wish the gay couples luck in their quest for recognition since they are deprived of opportunities to register their contract legally. But it would be most unfair if those who have the means, choose not to, and still get the benefits.

posted by Sarah | 20:43 1 comments
This case will leave Charlie McCreevy feeling very vindicated -- remember, I think it was the 2000 budget, he wanted to can the transferable allowance between couples, just individual bands for everyone. But they reversed it under pressure.
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