Returning gay emigrants and civil partnerships: An Ean factsheet
Irish citizens abroad may feel unable to return to Ireland because they cannot bring their lesbian or gay partner with them. Ireland’s immigration legislation does not currently allow returning emigrants to bring their non-EU homosexual partners with them, because it does not legally recognise civil partnerships – but legislation expected to be introduced this spring (2008) may change that.
Gay activists have said that heterosexual and homosexual couples should be treated equally in immigration matters. Eoin Collins of GLEN (Gay Lesbian Equality Network), which has been campaigning on the issue, says, “We have been arguing strongly for equality of treatment between married opposite sex and same sex couples in all areas, especially immigration regulations, as lack of recognition here can lead to separation and loss.” He says that sometimes people have contacted his organization to determine whether there has been progress made on civil partnership for same-sex couples.
He adds that there have been Irish lesbian and gay people who have returned to Ireland with their partners from the US, Australia, Canada, or other places, “but face serious difficulties in remaining here because of the uncertain legal status of their partner”. Sometimes people have moved to the UK, where same-sex partners are recognized in immigration regulations.
Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan said last fall that he would publish an outline of his proposed legislation by March 30. However, he said it would become law in the lifetime of the current Government, which could mean that it would be a number of years before it takes effect.
A Government spokesperson has said the legislation would recognize a variety of relationships, even beyond romantic ones; it would give legal protection, for example, to brothers and sisters who share a home.
Those from Northern Ireland face no such impediment, as same-sex partners are recognized in immigration regulations there. Legislation allowing civil partnerships in the UK was passed in 2005.
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