May 22, 2015
Scheduled to take place on 22 May 2015, the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill of 2015 otherwise regarded as “The 2015 Irish referendum to allow same sex marriage” states that if passed, “Two people of the opposite sex or of the same sex will be able to marry each other with the other detailed rules about who may marry to be decided later in legislation. The Constitutional status of marriage will remain unchanged and the marriage between two people of the same sex will have the same status under the Constitution as a marriage between a man and a woman. Married couples of the opposite sex or of the same sex will be recognised as a family and be entitled to the constitutional protection for families.” So essentially, this means that regardless of who you marry, you will be guaranteed the equal rights of others.
Despite the ever growing number of countries that now recognise and allow same sex marriages and civil unions, none have ever actually gone to the polls and been voted on by the people. And it’s this fact that makes the Republic of Ireland’s upcoming referendum so significant and a huge milestone in the slow but steady movement forward in marriage equality.
The significance of the Bill however, weighs heavily in the Republic of Ireland’s LGBTQI history. Despsite the diminishing influence of Roman Catholicism throughout the Republic of Ireland within recent decades, the sheer wight of its history can be felt in the fact that until 1993 the “act” of homosexuality was still considered illegal, and surrounding laws preventing workplace discrimination were not abolished until 1998. And while there are still laws preventing full LGBTQI gender rights, as well as commercial surrogacy for homosexual couples and homosexual men having a life ban on giving blood, the signs overwhelmingly point to steady changes in civil freedoms in all regards, and they appear to be coming in the not too distant future. Following the changing of laws in 1993 and 1998, the first civil unions took place in 2011, and no less than two years later the first calls for the upcoming referendum were made.
Now, that is only hours away.
Interestingly, a 2013 survey within the Republic of Ireland found that more than 70% of those who participated supported same sex marriage, and in April 2015 a poll of 1006 voters found that 72% would vote yes. Furthermore, all major political parties appear to be all for the bill, with the Catholic Church taking a conservatively low key opposition to the matter.
While it might seem like a progressional standard, going from recognising homosexuality as an illegal activity to a national referendum that not only legalises same sex marriage but also acknowledges the legal rights of those couples within the space of 22 years is a huge sign of things to come both in the Republic of Ireland as well as the world.