Same-Sex Marriage To Be Put To Public Referendum In May 2015
DUBLIN -- The Irish government announced Thursday that it has set May 2015 as the date for a public referendum on same-sex marriage. During a cabinet meeting, the Ministers accepted the recommendation of Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that they should follow the advice of the Constitutional Referendum and put the issue of same-sex marriage to the Irish voters.
Tanáiste Eamon Gilmore told reporters prior to the announcement on his way into the Cabinet meeting, that it was important that the Government “win” any referendum on same-sex marriage.
“It is important that we win this referendum. It is an important issue and we know from referenda on social issues before that it is important to do some preparation before the referendum is held,” he said.
[The Tánaiste is the deputy prime minister of the Republic of Ireland, and the second-most senior officer in its government who is appointed by the President of Ireland.]
The issue of same sex marriage and a number of other proposed constitutional changes including a reduction in the voting age to 17 will now be put to the voters. Today's announcement follows the Irish Constitutional Convention which had voted last April in an overwhelmingly showing of support for the referendum, which is the only mechanism by which same-sex marriage can be legalized. A recent poll showed that 75% of the Irish public would vote in favor.
The Catholic church has not announced whether it intends to run a campaign for a no vote. The church hierarchy's temporal power in Ireland has been dramatically diluted during the last decade owing to a series of paedophile priest scandals. A Church of Ireland's pro-LGBT group, Changing Attitude Ireland, welcomed the referendum and challenged all the churches not to oppose it. Dr Richard O'Leary, the chairman of CAI, said:
"The government's intention to hold a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples will facilitate discussion and challenge the ignorance, especially in the churches, of the positive experiences of same-sex relationships."
Grainne Healy, chairman of Marriage Equality, said she was confident that the people of Ireland overwhelmingly support the extension of civil marriage rights to lesbian and gay people.
“This referendum is unlike most other referenda, it’s not concerned with politics or economics, it’s about Ireland valuing its citizens equally. Introducing marriage equality to Ireland would strengthen our reputation as champions for human rights and equality.”
LGBTQ equality rights activists also noted that delaying the referendum until 2015 gives the Irish government time to settle related legislation such as the Children and Family Bill, which establishes the rights of gay and lesbian parents.