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JIC Post:From Associated Press Ireland will legalize civil partnerships for gay couples, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern pledged Monday as he opened new offices for the country's main gay rights group.Civil partnerships allow gay couples the same rights to inheritance, state benefits and other financial rights as held by married heterosexual couples.``Sexual orientation cannot, and must not, be the basis of a second-class citizenship. Our laws have changed, and will continue to change, to reflect this principle,'' Ahern told an audience at Ireland's Gay and Lesbian Equality Network.Ahern said it would be more difficult to legalize gay marriage in Ireland than it was in the United Kingdom, which approved the civil unions in December. Ireland's constitution has a clause requiring the predominantly Roman Catholic state to protect the institution of marriage, whereas the UK, which includes neighboring Northern Ireland, has no written constitution.``This challenge, however, is one that the government is determined to meet. We are committed to legislating on this issue,'' said Ahern, who noted that a government-appointed group of experts would recommend several possible options in a report expected in November.``Although there is a growing climate of equality and support for anti-discrimination action, I also recognize that members of the gay community still face isolation, abuse and victimization on the basis of their sexuality,'' Ahern said.
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