AN estimated 1,200 Irish-born men and women - roughly one-third of Ireland's gay couples - are living with a same-sex partner in the U.S., according to a new research paper from the Williams Institute, a public policy think tank at the University of California Los Angeles Law School. The study found that more than 500 Irish-born same-sex partners here are not U.S. citizens and would be among those most likely to return to Ireland to take advantage of the forthcoming civil partnership bill to be introduced by Irish Minister for Justice and Equality Brian Lenihan by March 31. Gary Gates, senior research fellow at the Williams Institute, told the Irish Voice, "Same-sex partnership legislation could help to entice a very talented group of Irish-born emigrants back to live and work in their homeland. Our study found that 43% of Irish-born same-sex partners living in the U.S. are college educated."Analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the study found that two-thirds of Irish-born same-sex partners in the country are women. The study also found that Irish-born same-sex partners are highly educated, with more than four in 10 (43%) possessing a college degree. More than one in seven couples that include an Irish-born partner (15%) are raising children. An additional 2,000 same-sex couples are living in Ireland, according to the recent study.As the Irish government considers the details of the civil partnership law, Gates added, "Irish policy makers should look beyond their own shores when they consider the possible effects of civil partnership legislation, some of which might be very good for the Irish economy."In the U.S. the Williams Institute has recently conducted a series of studies on the economic consequences of a state implementing marriage or other forms of legal recognition for same sex couples, providing data to informs those debates. Says Gates, "With help from the recent census data I discovered that I could determine what portion of same sex couples were Irish-born. But since Ireland does not permit foreign-born partners of Irish people to work there, for most same sex couples it is not an option to move back. "In consequence, Ireland is missing out on highly educated college graduates, the kind of talent that Ireland hopes to attract, due to legislation that won't permit them to move home with their U.S.-born partners."Gates added that many same sex Irish and U.S. couples find themselves in a legal bind. If they move to Ireland then the U.S.-born partner doesn't have status, but if they move to the U.S. the Irish-born partner doesn't have status. "Given that Irish and U.S. same sex couples have relatively high educations, our data suggests that Ireland is losing a creative class to the U.S.," Gates said."It turned out that the Irish people in our study were substantially more educated than the general immigrant population in the U.S. that is Irish-born."Asked how he explains the high levels of education among gay Irish and U.S. couples Gates replied, "I think there are several possibilities that could account for it. Gay people use education like other minorities have done to hedge against discrimination. "If you're 18 and choosing between going to college or becoming an auto mechanic - well, you'll probably pick college if you think you won't be discriminated against. It could also be because universities are broadly more welcoming than other alternatives after high school."Gates argues that new civil partnership legislation in Ireland could make it easier for global companies to move lesbian and gay employees, their partners and families from one country to another without risking the economic penalties and logistic challenges associated with non-recognition of their relationships. "Without legal recognition, it can be difficult for partners of gay and lesbian employees to obtain work permits and they can be subject to challenge regarding their parental rights," Gates added.The Irish government plans to introduce civil partnership legislation this spring. The legislation will provide same-sex couples with most of the rights and obligations of marriage, but without the name. Recent public opinion polls show that 84% of Irish people are in favor of some recognition of same-sex couples, while 53% would allow gay couples to marry.The study can be downloaded from: http://www.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute/publications/IrelandReport.pdf
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