Ireland published new civil partnership laws Friday giving legal recognition to same-sex couples but falling short of marriage because of difficulties arising from the country's constitution.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said the laws provided "very significant rights to civil partners" in the mainly Roman Catholic country.
"(The move) provides legal protection for cohabiting couples and is an important step, particularly for same-sex couples, whose relationships have not previously been given legal recognition by the state," Ahern said.
Those entering into civil partnerships face a range of rights and responsibilities including pension rights and maintenance obligations.
The law also provides for a redress scheme to give protection to a financially dependent person at the end of a long-term cohabiting relationship whether through break-up or the death of a partner.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland in 1993 following a 1988 European Court ruling the country was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.