Voters will head to the polls on 22nd May 2015 to decide whether same sex marriage in Ireland should become legal or not. Same sex marriage is about enabling gay and lesbian couples enter into a union on the same basis as heterosexual couples.
Marriage Equality is an organisation working for equal marriage rights for lesbians and gay men in Ireland. Their goal is to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Ireland through the extension of civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has called on the country to vote yes in the forthcoming gay marriage equality referendum. He said the referendum would underline Ireland’s reputation as a tolerant and inclusive nation. If the vote passes, it means Ireland will become the world’s first country to introduce same sex marriage by a national vote. Same sex civil partnerships have been allowed in Ireland since 2011. Civil partnership was a game changer that highlighted the normality in numerous families and communities of same-sex couples getting on with their ordinary lives.
Twenty years ago a new clause was added to the Constitution, recognising the fact of marriage breakdown. Now however, the Irish constituency is being asked to add a new clause to the Constitution, setting out how people can get married in the first place. It says: “marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex”.
If Ireland votes yes to this referendum, it will be saying that people can get married to each other regardless of their sexual orientation. This country regards gay people as equal to straight people, with the right to live their lives in the same way as everyone else. It has been a feature of Irish law for years that people should not be discriminated against whether they are gay or straight. This new clause aims to extend the principle of equality and non-discrimination to the institution of marriage.
There is currently much support for same sex marriage in Ireland. A poll carried out by The Irish Times in December 2014 revealed that 71% of those polled said they would vote in favour of same-sex marriage. It seems that every opinion poll suggests that a significant majority of people will support the yes vote, yet there are people adamantly opposed to it. These people have decided to oppose the proposition by arguing that it is bad for children.
Fergus Finlay from the Irish Examiner said, “Love, security, stability and safety are the conditions that all children need if their rights are to be realised. And if we stop to think about it for a moment, marriage is no guarantee of any of these conditions. I know children of gay parents who enjoy all these conditions in abundance — and I know children of “constitutionally married” parents who have never experienced the love and safety they need. It’s fundamentally important to separate the two issues of marriage and children.”
Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said that same sex couples will get equal parenting rights regardless of whether the referendum on same sex marriage is passed.
“There is a simple message about this referendum. This isn’t a complicated issue. It’s about one very simple issue which is whether people of the same sex should be allowed celebrate a ceremony that’s called marriage as opposed to celebrate a ceremony that’s called civil partnership.”