In a move that Irish Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern described as “one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation to come before us since independence," the legislation to recognize in law the civil partnership of Irish same-sex couples passed all stages in the Dail (Irish Parliament) last night.

There was sustained applause from the visitors gallery after the Civil Partnership Bill was passed without a vote. Minister Ahern said that all parties had united behind the Bill and this made it a “clear and powerful statement that gay people will never again have their status or relationships ignored.”

The Minister stressed that “in advancing this Bill we take from no one. We undermine no one. We destroy nothing. We only give: civil rights, protection and recognition of this State.”

Minister Ahern added that the Civil Partnership Bill “will put in place a legal regime that reflects the many forms of relationships in modern Irish society. Our society has changed in recent decades. While marriage is more popular than ever, other forms of relationships have become increasingly common, they create some difficulties in the legal system and require in our law a measure of recognition and of protection.”