Same-sex couples in Ireland will be able to adopt, following changes to the Children and Family Relationships Bill.
Approved late on Monday night with a majority of 20-2, the bill received a standing ovation as it cleared the Seanad after an eight hour debate.
Following lengthy discussions in the days leading to the debate, and 122 amendments, the 100-page bill includes 170 sections, dealing with topics around guardianship, donor-assisted reproduction, and child custody.
The bill will extend adoption rights to civil partners and cohabiting couples who have lived together for more than three years, changing existing laws which state only married couples and sole applicants can seek to adopt a child.
A parent’s spouse or cohabiting partner will be able to apply for guardianship of a child if they have co-parented the child for two years or longer.
There are also plans to establish a national donor-conceived child register, making it simpler for donors to be traced.
The bill lays out, for the first time in law, the factors that a court can take into account in defining a child’s best interest. These include ’meaningful relationships, psychological, emotional and spiritual well-being as well as issues such as family violence’.
Seanad Labour Spokesperson on Housing, Children and Youth Affairs, Aideen Hayden, said she was delighted to see the bill pass.
‘The bill has been hailed as the most important update to family law in the history of the State,’ she said.
‘It is designed to reflect the different family situations that now exist in Ireland and to provide greater legal protection and rights for these families.’
Despite controversies around the country’s same-sex marriage referendum – due to take place on 22 May – the only two senators to vote against the bill were Independent Senator RÃ³nÃ¡n Mullen and former Fianna FÃ¡il Senator Jim Walsh, who quit his party over its support for the bill.
The bill now awaits a signature from Irish President Michael D Higgins, who will sign it into law.