Multi-Year Support from a Funder: A Minority Group Achieves Groundbreaking Change through Ireland’s Civil Partnership Law for Same-Sex Couples

Brian Kierney-Grieve, The Atlantic Philanthropies

Some of the most far-reaching legal protections for gay and lesbian couples in the world were signed into law by the president of Ireland on July 19, 2010. The civil partnerships law was enacted in a country that just 16 years earlier had a law on the books criminalizing homosexual conduct. The law was passed with near unanimous parliamentary support by a government led by a center-right political party in a largely Catholic country. This law is seen as a fundamental stepping stone to civil marriage for same-sex couples in Ireland because its legal protections are so close to those of civil marriage. It provides more rights than U.S.-based civil marriage, which does not include federal rights in critical areas such as immigration, citizenship, tax, and health benefits. However, all of these areas are covered by the Irish civil partnership law.

The Atlantic Philanthropies provided multi-year core support to the group largely credited for this achievement, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) in Ireland. GLEN staff pointed to Atlantic’s funding as essential in securing the civil partnership legislation. Atlantic’s support under its human rights portfolio enabled GLEN to expand its staff from one to seven, hire the top people in the field, and focus on securing the organization’s goals of gaining civil marriage for same-sex couples.

GLEN staff added that the foundation’s multi-year funding also allowed GLEN to take the time and care it needed to carefully craft its approach to working with legislators and create professional materials and events to make its case. According to GLEN staff, Atlantic’s five-year grant served as “positive pressure” for GLEN to accomplish a lasting change for gay and lesbian couples in a relatively short period.

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