The Remarkable Journey towards Civil Marriage

On May 22nd 2015 Irish citizens voted emphatically to ensure lesbian and gay people are full and equal citizens in the Constitution of Ireland. The turnout for the civil marriage equality referendum was over 60% which is high for Irish referendums, of this 62% voted YES to inserting a line in the Constitution which would allow lesbian and gay couples access to civil marriage. Ireland joined the ranks of twenty other countries where this is possible and the first country in the world to do so by vote of the people. Outlined below is a summary of the journey towards that momentous result in May of 2015.

The Road to Civil Marriage: A Summary
• The issue of equal access to civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples was the subject of considerable debate, analysis and consultation in Ireland over the 10 years leading up to the marriage referendum in May 2015.

• A 2006 Government working group (Colley Report) identified access to civil marriage as the full equality option albeit it made more difficult because of Consitutional barriers. In 2012 the Consitutional Convention voted overwhelmingly in favour of putting the question to the people in a referendum.
• From these debates support for equal marriage has grown consistently across society and across every political party in the Oireachtas.
• The Constitution was perceived and interpreted as a barrier to the achievement of this equality goal. Consequently, a constitutional referendum was the only avenue open to provide access to civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples. There was little appetite for such a referendum prior to the 2012 General Election.
• In 2010, to provide legal rights and responsibilities for those in lesbian and gay relationships, the then Government enacted civil partnership legislation, which was supported by all parties in the Oireachtas. Civil Partnership sought to provide a model of legal recognition as close to marriage as the prevailing understanding of constitutional limits would allow.
• Since then thousands of couples's celebrated civil partnerships (civil partnerships and marriages from other jurisdictions were also recognised as Irish civil partnerships). Family, friends and neighbours relished the opportunity to celebrate the couples lifelong commitment often treating the occasions as weddings.
• Civil Partnerships were a major advance. However, they fell short of full constitutional equality and therefore did not provide the critical equal status, standing and dignity of all lesbian and gay people and for lesbian and gay headed families.

• The move then to civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples was not a massive leap; it was an incremental step that Irish people rejoiced in taking.

On May 22nd 2015 Irish citizens voted emphatically to ensure lesbian and gay people are full and equal citizens in the Constitution of Ireland. The turnout for the civil marriage equality referendum was over 60% which is high for Irish referendums, of this 62% voted YES to inserting a line in the Constitution which would allow lesbian and gay couples access to civil marriage.

 

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