Rights of same-sex couples

Introduction

A statutory civil partnership registration scheme for same-sex couples was introduced in Ireland in 2011. Following a vote in favour of marriage equality in a constitutional referendum in November 2015, same sex couples now have the right to marry.

Civil partnerships

Under the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010, a statutory civil partnership registration scheme for same-sex couples was introduced to give legal recognition of same-sex couples. Under the scheme, registered civil partners have broadly the same rights and obligations towards each other as married couples.

However, following the passing of the referendum in 2015 on legalising same-sex marriage and the enactment of the Marriage Act 2015, civil partnerships are no longer granted in Ireland.

Civil partnerships that existed before 2015 are still recognised, and existing partnerships are automatically dissolved if the couple decide to marry.

Find more information in our page on Civil partnership and same-sex couples.

Same-sex marriage

Since 16 November 2015, same-sex couples get can legally get married in Ireland. They have the same rights and obligations towards each other as opposite-sex married couples.

Couples in a civil partnership can also marry.

Read more on our page on Getting married.

Same-sex cohabitants

Cohabitants are 2 adults of the same-sex or opposite-sex, who are:

  • Not married to each other or in a registered civil partnership
  • Not related within the prohibited degrees of relationship (for example, certain people related by blood or marriage cannot get married)
  • Living together in an intimate and committed relationship

The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 changed a number of existing laws, so that the rights available to opposite-sex couples living together are also available to same-sex couples living together. For example:

Redress scheme for cohabitants

The 2010 Act also introduced a redress scheme for cohabiting couples (including same-sex cohabiting couples), which protects a financially dependent cohabitant in the event of the relationship ending.

This means the financially-dependent partner can apply to the Court, and the Court can make orders similar to those available to married couples when they separate or divorce (for example, a property adjustment order or a compensatory maintenance order). Or, if one cohabitant dies, the surviving cohabitant can apply to the Court for provision from the estate of the deceased cohabitant.

To be a qualified cohabitant for the redress scheme, you must have lived together for at least 5 years, or for 2 years if you have a child with your partner. If one of you is still married, then neither of you can be a qualified cohabitant until the married person has been living apart from their spouse for at least 4 of the previous 5 years.

Paying tax

Cohabiting couples (whether same sex or opposite sex) are not treated in the same way as married couples or civil partners for tax purposes. Revenue assesses cohabiting couples as single individuals for tax.

Social welfare entitlements for cohabitants

Cohabiting couples (including same-sex couples) are treated the same as married couples. This means that, when one cohabitant makes a claim for a social welfare payment, the other cohabitant is treated as an adult dependant.

EU citizens and their family members

The European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015 transpose EU Directive 2004/38/EC into Irish law. The Regulations allow EU citizens and their family members the right to ‘facilitation of entry’ and residence in Ireland.

The Regulations also widen the definition of ‘family member’, to include:

  • A partner with whom the EU citizen has a ‘valid durable relationship’
  • The dependent parents
  • Children under 21 and other dependent children of that partner
Read more about residence rights for family members.
Page edited: 25 March 2022