The Civil Partnership bill specifically prohibits any ceremony other than that before a civil registrar being recognised as valid. That means that unlike straight couples, gay couples can’t be legally united in a humanist ceremony (or by a religious minister, though not in many religions).
Ceremony is important. One civil ceremony I attended was brilliantly done by a registrar who knew how important the day was to everyone concerned. But on another occasion, I saw a bored and uninterested civil servant who droned through the minimum legally necessary form of words and shuffled everyone out so he could get back to his sandwich.
For that reason, people should have freedom in deciding where they go to profess their union.
As proposed, the Irish civil partnership bill is a cop out. Whatever about distinguishing between marriage and civil union, there is no constitutional reason why a civil union should be the same as a contract between two bachelor farmers sorting out who gets the farm when they die.
Maybe in ten years time, another government will have the courage to do it right. Maybe the Greens will grow a pair and demand a proper civil union.
I’m not holding my breath.