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Ireland to vote on same-sex marriage

06 February 2015


Ceremony:  the Sinn Fein mayor of Belfast,  Mairtin O Muilleoir (second left),  attends the Armistice Day service at the cenotaph at City Hall, Belfast, on Monday 

Ceremony:  the Sinn Fein mayor of Belfast, 

THE Irish government will hold a referendum in May, which could result in the amendment of Article 41 of the Constitution to allow same-sex marriage.

The wording proposes to amend the Constitution by inserting a new section stating that: "Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex." With strong backing from the political parties, it is expected to be passed.

Although the Church of Ireland, currently deliberating on sexuality, will not be taking a stance on the issue of same-sex marriage, it will be encouraging people to vote according to individual con- science.

Three years ago, at its General Synod, the Church of Ireland began a debate on same-sex issues, but a motion affirming the traditional Anglican view of marriage as between one man and one woman was passed. A select committee was established a year later, and is due to report to the General Synod in Armagh in May.

The Roman Catholic Church is opposed to the legalising of same-sex marriage, describing it as a "grave injustice" on the grounds that it distorts the meaning of "marriage" and the position of the family under the country's laws.

It is probable that questions pertaining to the family and children, as emphasised in the current constitutional Article, will be in the foreground of the campaign.

Opponents of the amendment argue, among other things, that legal and constitutional protec- tion for the rights of the child to a father and mother would be taken away.

Dr Richard O'Leary, who chairs a pro-gay-rights movement in the Church of Ireland, Changing Attitude Ireland, said that "this referendum is about extending civil marriage to same-sex couples, and is not about church marriage, and it is helpful that the Church of Ireland appears to understand this distinction."

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