Dublin’s two major morning newspapers put their individual spins on yesterday’s debate in the Dáil on same-sex civil unions.
Ever true to Fianna Fáil the “paper of record,” the Irish Times, literally trumpeted the government line in its headline, “Same-sex couples to get legal recognition next year," which it then when on to detail in the body of the article:
The Government has announced plans to give legal recognition to same-sex couples but the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Brian Lenihan, has ruled out gay marriage as being in conflict with the Constitution.
The Minister said last night that the heads of a Bill to legislate for civil partnerships would be ready by next March and the Government would then proceed as quickly as possible with detailed legislation.
Mr Lenihan said the Government opposed a Labour Party Bill on civil unions, originally tabled last March, as the clear advice of the Attorney General was that it was contrary to the explicit recognition given to the family based on marriage in the Constitution.
The Green Party, which strongly backed the Labour Bill in the spring, expressed support for the Government with the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, saying he was pleased that for the first time the State would soon recognise the validity of same-sex partnerships.
The Labour Party spokesman on the Constitution and Law Reform, Brendan Howlin, described the Government rejection of his party's Bill as "a shameful abdication of responsibility on the part of the three parties in government".
The Irish Independent's headline “Gay 'marriages' soon to be legal,” was (as usual) misleading. The government has made it abundantly clear that it believes the Irish constitution as written reserves marriage to opposite-sex couples. So in a pointed but coded way, by calling civil unions “marriages” the Indo attempted to rile up its more devote Catholic readers.
If that wasn't enough, the Indo added another neoconservative dig in the body of the article:
Gay couples will be recognised for the first time in the history of the State, but it will probably come at a cost to the taxpayer.
Same sex couples will be allowed to legally register their partnerships under new laws currently being drawn up.
The move will have implication for a "myriad" of people in other co-habiting relationships.
Gay couples in civil unions will be allowed to register their partnerships, which will then gain legal protection.
But the Government is holding back from giving gay couples the same rights as married couples.
Giving all gay and co-habiting couples the exact same tax benefits as married couples would cost anything up to €2bn a year.
The Government will now have to decide what tax advantages to give to gay and, by extension, co-habiting couples.
And if these couples are to be granted tax benefits, the coalition will have to decide how to pay for this move.
It can either take the hit in the coffers or go down the less likely route of making married couples pay more tax by removing the present tax advantages enjoyed by married couples, so that all income earners are treated the same.
[emphasis all mine]
According to the Indo, you see, same-sex unions will threaten straight marriages, at least tax-break wise. Their subtly spiteful coverage is intentionally misleading and really incenses me.
Both headlines more or less give support to the Fianna Fáil government position and ignore the points that Labour was trying to score. A more appropriate headline from Labour’s perspective would have read something along the lines of, “Fianna Fáil and Green government determined to delay equality to gays.”
This afternoon, after further debate, the Labour bill was rejected by a vote of 66 to 59. (More info here.)
We'll have to wait until next Spring to see what the government comes up with to fulfill its promise to introduce a fairer, more comprehensive bill.