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Same-sex marriages (SSM), civil unions, etc.

Movement towards SSM in Ireland

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Timeline of events:

  • 1993: Ireland decriminalized same-sex activity.

  • 2004-SEP-11: Ann Louise Gilligan and Katherine Zappone, a lesbian couple, had married in British Columbia in 2003-SEP. Zappone is a member of Ireland's Human Rights Commission. Gilligan is a Dublin philosophy lecturer. They had been together for 23 years and live together in Brittas, a beachside resort south of Dublin. They returned to Ireland and petitioned the High Court to have their marriage recognized. They also sought clearance by the Revenue Commissioners to allow them to file their income tax forms as a married couple. Tax for married couples is lower than for singles; spouses also pay lower inheritance taxes.  Their lead lawyer, Gerard Hogan, argued that neither the 1937 Irish constitution nor more recent tax laws specifically define marriage as between one man and one woman. 1

  • 2004-OCT-18: The all-party Oireachtas' (National Parliament) Committee on the Constitution conducted a review of family related clauses in the Constitution. Part of the review involved rights for same-sex couples. The committee heard from a variety of groups and legal experts. They planned to report to the government by 2005-JUL. Possible options that they might pass on to legislators may include the abolition of marriage, the introduction of a civil partnership, opening marriage to include same-sex unions, or introducing different categories of marriage. Ms. Jan O'Sullivan of the Labour Party said her party would "favor gay couples having the same rights that everyone else has, whether you call it marriage or something else. We feel the option should be available to gay couples." Barry Andrews of the Fianna Fáil party also favored recognition of gay marriages. But he foresaw problems related to adoption and other family rights. 2

    Also in 2004, the Civil Registration Act was passed. It specifically restricted marriage to a union of one man and one woman.

  • 2006-DEC: The High Court ruled in the Gilligan and Zappone case that the Irish Constitution intended that marriages were to be limited to unions of persons of the opposite sex. 3

  • 2008: A poll of persons 18 years of age or older found that:
    • 63% believe that denying civil marriage to same-sex couples is a form of discrimination.
    • About 52% favored an amendment to the laws to allow same-sex couples to marry. 4

  • 2010: The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act, was passed. It allows same-sex couples aged 18 or above to enter into a civil partnership which is similar to a civil union in the U.S., except that it is missing many of the same privileges, benefits and protections given to married couples. The first civil partnerships took place in 2011-Spring. A non-profit group "Marriage Equality" identified 160 statutory differences lacking for partnerships which are available for married couples. The group wrote:

    "The children of lesbian and gay parents are in legal limbo in Ireland. Under the Civil Partnership Act, there is no provision for adoption or guardianship of children who are being parented by same-sex couples. In addition, there are no provisions for custody, access, or maintenance payments for children.

    Furthermore, a child's de facto parent may not be treated as next of kin in a hospital or school situation, because they are not recognised as a legal parent - they are effectively strangers in law.

    The fact is, banning same sex couples from civil marriage does not stop same sex couples from having children.  All it does is stop these families from being recognised in Irish law, and therefore stops children from being protected." 5

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  • 2012: A poll by Millward Brown showed that a major increase in support for SSM had ocurred since an earlier poll in 2008:
    • 72% believe that denying civil marriage to same-sex couples is a form of discrimination.
    • 71% favored an amendment to the laws to allow same-sex couples to marry.
    • 75% said they would vote yes in a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples. 88% of persons aged 18 to 24 would vote yes.4

  • 2012-JUN-06: Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan and Senator Katherine Zappone have launched another lawsuit trying to have their Canadian marriage recognized in Ireland. They are currently classified only as civil partners. 6

  • 2013-APR: A Constitutional Convention was held, consisting of 66 citizens and 34 legislators. 79% voted in favor of an amendment to the Irish constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry. Member of Parliament John Lyons said:

    "This brings us to a 20-year cycle of dramatic social change for gay and lesbian people in Ireland. The blood that flows through my veins is the same as yours. But yet you treat me -- and people like me -- differently." 7

    The European Observer described the thoughts of Sarah-Anne Buckley, a social historian at National University of Ireland in Galway. The Observer wrote:

    "... The progressive legal changes in Ireland was the result of a series of factors over recent decades - including joining the EU in 1973, an increasingly vocal feminist movement, the economic boom of the 1990s and the weakening grip of the Catholic Church, largely due to sex abuse scandals.

    Many of the restrictive social laws were made in the 1920s and 1930s. They proved enduring. Only in 1973 was a ban on married women working in the civil service lifted. Women were not allowed to sit on juries before this date either. Nor were single mothers entitled to social assistance. Contraceptives became available to everyone only in 1984. Divorce - limited - arrived in 1986. In 1991, it became illegal for a man to rape his wife. Two years later homosexuality was decriminalised." 7

  • 2013-JUN: Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore announced that Ireland will hold a referendum on equal marriage during 2014.

Olivia McEvoy, Chair of Ireland's National Lesbian and Gay Federation (NLGF), said:

"The NLGF has always asserted that the issue of marriage equality should not require a public vote as marriage is a fundamental human and civil right that should be open to all citizens of this country. However, as the government has affirmed the need for a referendum on this issue, we will firmly give our support to the campaign to secure a Yes vote on the day of the poll. ... We take great heart from the overwhelming vote at the Constitutional Convention last April to positively affirm the right of LGBT couples to marry under our Constitution, a result consistent with numerous public opinion surveys on the issue." 8

Polls by Marriage Equality Ireland showed that support for equal marriage rose from 63% in 2008 to 75% in 2012. 8 This is the highest percentage that we have ever seen in a country without SSM.

Civil Partnerships are widely criticized within the LGBT community. Marriage Equality/Ireland says that
a Civil Partnership:

  • "Does not permit children to have a legally recognised relationship with their parents - only the biological one. This causes all sorts of practical problems for hundreds of families with schools and hospitals as well as around guardianship, access and custody. In the worst case, it could mean that a child is taken away from a parent and put into care on the death of the biological parent.

  • Does not recognise same sex couples' rights to many social supports that may be needed in hardship situations and may literally leave a loved one out in the cold.

  • Defines the home of civil partners as a "shared home", rather than a "family home" , as is the case for married couples. This has implications for the protection of dependent children living in this home and also means a lack of protection for civil partners who are deserted." 9

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More developments in the future are certain.

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Andrea Botha, "Irish Ruling on gay marriage," 2004-SEP-11, News24.com, at: http://www.news24.com/
  2. Liam Reid and Joe Humphreys, "Gay marriage under focus in review of family rights," The Irish Times, 2004-OCT-18, at: http://www.ireland.com/
  3. "," 2007-FEB-23, RT News, at: http://www.rte.ie/
  4. "Millward Brown (Lansdowne) Polling Highlights 2012," Marriage Equality, at: http://www.marriagequality.ie/
  5. "Marriage v Civil Partnership FAQs," Marriage Equality, at: http://www.marriagequality.ie/
  6. "Countdown to KAL," Marriage Equality, at: http://www.marriagequality.ie/
  7. "Same-sex marriage underlines social change in Ireland," EU Observer, 2013-MAY-07, at: http://euobserver.com/
  8. Joseph Patrick McCormick, "Ireland to hold referendum on equal marriage in 2014," Pink News, 2013-JUN-24, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  9. "Marriage Equality myths busted,"Marriage Equality, at: http://www.marriagequality.ie/

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Site navigation: Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM Menu > here

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Copyright © 2002 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004
Latest update: 2013-JUN-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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