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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Outline map of Ireland 1

Part 2:
2013: Ireland:
"Convention on the Constitution" held.
Government to hold SSM referendum.

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LGBT symbol 2013: "Convention on the Constitution."

2013-APR: The Convention on the Constitution -- commonly called the "Constitutional Convention" was set up in 2012 by the Houses of the Oireachtas (Legislature) to discuss a series of amendments to the Constitution of Ireland. It consisted of 100 members: a chairperson, 29 members of the Irish Parliament (the Oireachtas), 4 representatives from Northern Ireland political parties, and 66 randomly selected citizens of Ireland.

79% voted in favor of the fifth item on their nine-item agenda: 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." 2

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 [previous] 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." 2

On the topic of same-sex couples, the convention issued one directive, and one recommendation, to the Irish Government:

  1. *The Constitution should be amended to allow for same-sex marriage (and this amendment should ‘directive’)

  2. If the amendment is carried then the state should enact laws incorporating necessary changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and upbringing of children.

One liberal recommendation of the Convention is unrelated to same-sex marriage. It was to remove the requirement to criminalise blasphemy and replace it with a ban on incitement to religious hatred. 3 That is a major improvement on religious freedom in Ireland because almost any theological statement by a non-Christian theologian and many statements by Christian theologians would probably qualify as blasphemy to other Christians.

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2013: Government commitment to hold a referendum on SSM:

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." 4

Polls by Marriage Equality Ireland during the previous year showed that support for equal marriage rose from 63% in 2008 to 75% in 2012. 4 This is the highest percentage that we have ever seen in a country that has not yet attained marriage equality.

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." 5

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2013-NOV: Government delays the referendum until the first half of 2015:

By 2013-NOV-06, the Constitutional Convention had almost finished its work. 6

Alan Shatter, the Minister for Justice, proposed to the Irish Cabinet that the referendum be held during the first half of 2015. The delay was caused by the necessity to create new legislation to cover same-sex adoptions and other measures.

Shatter said:

"The Government shares the concern of Mr Tom Arnold, the Chairman of the Constitutional Convention that people be better informed in relation to referendums and is also concerned to ensure that questions put to the people in referendums give rise to no misunderstanding or confusion."

thumb up imageRenee Dempsey, the Chief Executive of The Equality Authority welcomed the commitment by the Government to hold a referendum on the issue.

Raidió Teilifís Éireann, (RTE), Ireland's National Public Service Broadcaster, wrote:

"... Renee Dempsey said the authority said it supports a question being put that involves the entire electorate in expressing a view and that the referendum 'does not place a minority group in the position where they must ask permission of their peers to marry the person of their choice.'

Amnesty International Ireland said the decision shows the ability of the Constitutional Convention to drive serious reform in Ireland.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network and Marriage Equality have all welcomed the announcement.

GLEN chairman Kieran Rose described it as a 'historic step.'

Marriage Equality chairperson Grainne Healy said the decision was important not only from a legal perspective but socially as well."

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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. Outline map of Ireland was supplied by See: Used by permission.
  2. "Same-sex marriage underlines social change in Ireland," EU Observer, 2013-MAY-07, at:
  3. "Constitutional Convention (Ireland)," Wikipedia, as on 2014-APR-14, at:
  4. Joseph Patrick McCormick, "Ireland to hold referendum on equal marriage in 2014," Pink News, 2013-JUN-24, at:
  5. "Marriage Equality myths busted,"Marriage Equality, at:
  6. David Farrell, "The progress of the Irish Constitutional Convention to date," The Irish Politics Forum, 3013-NOV-06, at:

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

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Copyright © 2004 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004
Latest update: 2014-MAY-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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