Ireland, a mostly Roman Catholic country where divorce was legalized only seven years ago, is contemplating another leap away from its conservative past--and toward greater rights for gay and lesbian couples. An all-party committee of lawmakers plans to meet next week to discuss the need to modernize Ireland's family law, including the possibility of granting gay couples rights similar to those enjoyed by married heterosexual couples. All parties agree that the Irish constitution, written in 1937, reflects outdated values for the 21st century. "If you look at the provisions for the family in the constitution, they were written when women were seen as being tied to the kitchen sink," said committee chairman Denis O'Donovan, who confirmed that lawmakers would "take an objective look" at the possibility of granting legal status to gay couples.
While members of the two major parties--O'Donovan's Fianna Fail and Fine Gael--continue to reflect conservative social values, left-leaning members have called for gays to receive exactly the same familial rights as heterosexuals. Jan O'Sullivan of the opposition Labour Party said gay couples should have "the same rights that everyone else has, whether you call it marriage or something else." The lawmakers' committee expects to publish a report of recommendations to the government by July 2005.