SAME-SEX couples are likely to be able to marry in the Irish
Republic as soon as the autumn, after the government pledged to
fast-track the enabling legislation after last weekend's landslide
vote in favour of the measure.
On Saturday, the Republic became the first nation in the world
to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. Voter turnout, at
60.5 per cent, was among the highest ever in a referendum since the
founding of the State, much of it attributed to young people, who
travelled from as far away as Thailand, Australia, Africa, and the
US to exercise their franchise. Social media is thought to have
played a key part in getting out the vote.
All but one of the Republic's 43 constituencies voted strongly
in favour of inserting into the Constitution the clause: "Marriage
may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without
distinction as to their sex."
In a two-to-one affirmation nationwide (62 to 38 per cent), only
the western Roscommon-South Leitrim constituency bucked the trend,
and that by only two per cent.
The result also showed that on social and moral issues, the
traditional urban-rural divide, so obvious in past referendums on
issues such as divorce and abortion, had disappeared, as had the
influence of the Roman Catholic clergy, whose bishops had been a
strong force in the no campaign.
Absent, also, was the bitterness between opposing sides in the
debate, although some no voters claimed to have been intimidated
into silence by the influence of the yes campaign.
Despite warnings from the RC Church of possible legal
implications for those who might refuse to solemnise a same-sex
marriage on grounds of faith or conscience, the Oireachtas
(legislative body) has promised that legislation will ensure that
no one is obliged to officiate.
Senator David Norris, a prominent campaigner for the amendment,
said: "There's been such utter rubbish spouted. No Catholic priest
is going to be forced to marry gay people - although it wouldn't
kill them to give a couple a blessing. They're happy to bless
bombs, pets, agricultural implements. You'd think a blessing for
two people who love each other would be easier than blessing a
couple of goldfish."
On Monday, during a four-day visit to Ireland, the UN
secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, said: "The result sends an
important message to the world: all people are entitled to enjoy
their human rights and human dignity, no matter who they are or
whom they love."
On Tuesday, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro
Parolin, described the results of the referendum as "a defeat for
In an earlier reaction, the RC Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid
Martin, said that the Church must ask itself whether it had
alienated young people. He said: "I think really that the Church
needs to do a reality check, a reality check right across the board
- to look at the things it's doing well, to look at the areas where
we really have to start and say: 'Look, have we drifted away from
He said that he appreciated how gay men and women felt. The vote
reflected a social revolution that the Church had perhaps not
"It's very clear that, if this referendum is an affirmation of
the views of young people, then the Church has a huge task in front
of it to find the language to be able to talk to and to get its
message across to young people, not just on this issue, but in
The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson,
attended the announcement of the result on Saturday in the grounds
of Dublin Castle, where 2000 people had gathered.
He echoed Dr Martin's call for a reality check, and said that it
prompted a debate on family in the "new civic space". He spoke of
"the discussion which will now have to be held, as a matter of some
urgency, with honesty, integrity, respect, and compassion around
what constitutes family. . .
"The urgency of this conversation has been heralded already by
politicians who facilitated the discourse preceding the referendum.
This provides both an opportunity and a challenge to all Churches.
It also chimes with the words of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, which
speak into the situation of all of us, that the Church now has to
engage in a reality check."
A Church of Ireland statement said that the result did not
change its practice. "The Archbishops and Bishops . . . wish to
affirm that the people of the Republic of Ireland, in deciding by
referendum to alter the state's legal definition of marriage, have,
of course, acted fully within their rights.
"The Church of Ireland, however, defines marriage as between a
man and a woman, and the result of this referendum does not alter
"The Church has often existed, in history, with different views
from those adopted by the state, and has sought to live with both
conviction and good relationships with the civil authorities and
communities in which it is set.
"Marriage services taking place in a Church of Ireland church,
or conducted by a minister of the Church of Ireland may, in
compliance with church teaching, liturgy and canon law, continue to
celebrate only marriage between a man and a woman. We would now
sincerely urge a spirit of public generosity, both from those for
whom the result of the referendum represents triumph, and from
those for whom it signifies disaster."
The C of I House of Bishops is known to be divided. Two bishops,
both from the Republic, have come out strongly in favour of
same-sex marriage: the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne & Ross Dr Paul
Colton, and the Bishop of Cashel & Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael
Burrows. All the Northern bishops are either opposed to the measure
or have not made their views known.
Dr Richard O'Leary, of Faith in Marriage Equality and Changing
Attitude Ireland, the pro-gay Anglican lobby group, said: "We are
delighted that so many other people of faith have voted yes to
embrace their gay and lesbian fellow citizens. We would like to
thank those prominent lay people of faith, the individual priests
and nuns, and the two Church of Ireland bishops who declared
publicly for yes, and so encouraged others to do likewise.
"Faith in Marriage Equality would also like to again reassure
those people of faith who voted no that this vote for yes will not
impact negatively on their lives, and we hope that they, too, will
eventually be reconciled to this positive social change."
Dr O'Leary went on: "We hope that the Catholic Bishops and
Protestant church leaders in Northern Ireland will notice how many
ordinary people of faith in the Republic of Ireland have voted yes,
and that they, too, might be encouraged to support the extension of
civil marriage equality to same-sex couples in Northern
The Northern Ireland Assembly, dominated by the Democratic
Unionist Party, has so far blocked attempts by Nationalist Sinn
Féin to introduce similar legislation in the province on four
occasions. The DUP MLA Paul Givan is seeking to bring forward a
so-called conscience clause that would allow businesses to refuse
to provide services that they believed could compromise their
The Irish government must now tackle the implications of
amending the constitution, not least a form of wording to deal with
civil solemnisers, and the matter of surrogacy, currently
unregulated, which may come before the courts should a same-sex
couple assert such a right.
The government is also looking at the judgment in the Ashers
Bakery case in the North (News, 22 May).
It is understood that a printing company, Beulah, in Drogheda, may
face a civil action for alleged discrimination in the Republic's
courts for declining to print wedding invitations for a gay
As the new reality in Ireland dawns, another referendum has been
flagged by Dr James Reilly, a former Health Minister and now
Minister for Children, who is calling for a change in the country's
highly restrictive abortion law to allow for the procedure in the
case of foetal abnormalities and possibly in cases of rape or
check' - Leader comment
leaves it to the laity' - Paul Vallely
The judgement in
the Ashers Bakery case - Letter
Is the RC hierarchy in Ireland a spent force? Vote