Marriage Equality – the campaign
Generations to come will be baffled about why marriage equality has caused such controversy in Ireland. From a legal and moral standpoint, marriage equality for same-sex couples appeared to be an absolute 'no brainer' to many of us. However, particularly in rural Ireland, the church still has considerable influence and,in what was a hard-fought referendum campaign, many listened calls by the Roman Catholic (and indeed the Presbyterian and Methodist churches) to vote no. To quote the Archbishop of Dublin 'Marriage, in the Constitution, is linked with the family and with a concept of family and to the mutuality of man and women which is the fundamental foundation for the family as it exists in the constitution today'. This sentiment was picked up by the 'No' campaign in posters which appeared throughout Ireland.
What's in a name?
Whilst civil partnership was welcomed by many in Ireland, others saw it as an unhappy compromise, believing we should follow the example of England, Scotland, Spain and many other jurisdictions where the definition of marriage was extended to cover same-sex couples. The name ‘civil partnership' was borrowed from the United Kingdom and was coined to distinguish the institution from marriage and to reduce opposition to the legislation in its passage through the
. Although it accurately describes legal status, it is rarely used by gay couples to define their relationship. In essence it is a separate but broadly equal institution which is, at best, an unsatisfactory halfway-house in the quest for marriage equality.
Northern Ireland – Ulster still says 'No'
Northern Ireland is now the only part of the UK and Ireland which does not have same-sex marriage. Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness welcomed the success of the marriage equality vote.
Mr McGuinness said: 'Today we can all rightfully be proud to be Irish and part of an increasingly tolerant, pluralist and outward-looking Ireland ... Politicians, particularly in the north need to reflect on this progress.'
On 27 April the Northern Ireland Assembly rejected a motion on equal marriage by two votes, with 47 in favour and 49 against. This was the fourth occasion the Assembly rejected such a motion, margins are improving. The 'Yes' vote in the Republic is bound to increase the momentum in favour of marriage equality in the North, it will also send a not so subtle message to the churches to stop telling us how to vote.
A social revolution?
The Republic of Ireland by voting 'Yes' has shown itself to be an inclusive young democracy which is prepared to cast off the shackles of history
This debate was about more than same-sex marriage, it was about how Irish society will be shaped over these next few decades.
The 'Yes' vote was a vote in favour of a more secular, equal and inclusive society, it was a vote against bigotry and discrimination.
The enabling legislation for same-sex marriage in Ireland will be passed in July, the first gay marriages will take place in August or September.
Ireland became a better place today – better times ahead.