Barry Dignam and Hugh Walsh will make history today as Ireland’s first official gay wedding couple – and they couldn’t be happier.
Dignam and Walsh, together for the past 17 years, will become the public face of civil partnership in Ireland as the first couple not to require an exemption to celebrate a gay marriage.
New legislation which came into effect on January 1st allows the pair to be married at a Dublin registry office without the need for a court granted exemption to the usual three months notice which couples must give to the General Registrar office.
Six civil partnerships have already been registered with the State but all were subject to an exemption order.
“We feel a certain amount of responsibility that this is a big step which Ireland is taking and that we’re going to be a part of that,” Dignam told the Irish Times before revealing that the historic nature of their union did prompt some soul searching.
“We did have an opportunity to move the date due to the media attention but we felt that we would have been cheating gay people who had been through an awful lot of hardship – those who had been ridiculed and even jailed in the past.”
Gay couples are still denied full marriage rights but Dignam is hopeful that today’s breakthrough will help change legislation in the future.
“This change is a pretty sizeable change although it is a pity it’s not full marriage,” he added.
“There are those in the gay community who believe strongly that civil partnership does not go far enough.
“They are right as well. Anything which is not equality is not equal.”
Dignam also told the Times that the majority of people he has met are fully supportive of today’s civil service.
He continued: “Soon, hopefully, the people throwing stones will simply run out of targets.”
The Department of Social Protection has told the Irish Times that up to April 1st the number of couples who had given notice of intention to enter a civil partnership had reached 267.
The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) estimates that there could be up to 1,000 same-sex relationships from 27 overseas jurisdictions which received recognition in Ireland as and from January 13th, 2011.