Same-sex marriages performed in New York will be recognized as Irish Civil Partnerships from December 25, following a new order delivered this week by Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

'This is excellent news for those Irish people in New York who have married since the law was enacted there this July,' Kieran Rose, chairperson of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) told the Irish Examiner.

From December 25, any Irish and American or Ireland-based couples who marry in New York will now enjoy most of the same legal benefits which heterosexual couples do, including recognition in the tax laws brought in by the Irish Government in July.

Same-sex couples will also qualify the way opposite sex couples do for immigration purposes, which means that a US citizen in a same-sex marriage to an Irish citizen in New York will now be able to legally live and work in Ireland.

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However, same-sex Irish and US couples do not enjoy the same immigration rights in New York that civil marriage partners do in Ireland; this is because same-sex marriage in New York is a state law, not a federal law, and immigration in the US is a federal right.

In fact, same sex marriages between Americans and Irish born partners actually increase the possibility of the Irish born partner's deportation, since a wedding is often taken to indicate an intention to remain within the US.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ,which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, prevents any US and foreign born couple from equal protection in United States law. Since it was enacted, DOMA has forced thousands of US and foreign born same-sex bi-national couples to make the heartbreaking choice between love and country.

This year, immigration groups in the US are asking Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to immediately reunite these couples with their families in the United States by granting a temporary 'humanitarian parole' to the foreign spouses, allowing them to enter the United States with that temporary status until a permanent solution can be achieved.

Meanwhile, the Irish Ministerial Order, which already addresses these issues in Ireland, will come into effect on Christmas Day.