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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Outline map of Ireland

Part 15:
2015-MAY-25 to 29:
Three reactions to the referendum:
two very eloquent responses in the
media, and an attack by a Catholic
Gay marriages arrive in Ireland.

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This topic is continued from the previous page

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In this web site, the acronym LGBT refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
and Transgender/Transsexual community. The acronym "SSM" refers to
Same-sex Marriage.

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LGBT symbol 2015-MAY-25: An editorial concerning the 2015-MAY-22 referendum on marriage equality in the Irish Times:

The newspaper published the following article under the title: "Marriage Referendum: Ireland sends a message of true equality and inclusiveness to the world:"

"It may feel as if Ireland has changed in the last few days but it really hasn’t. It has shown its face. We have long known that we do not correspond to the parody of a deeply conservative, narrowly Catholic society. As Archbishop Dermot Martin stressed in the days before the marriage equality referendum, the time when bishops could instruct the Irish people on how to vote has long gone. What we may not have appreciated until now is that being a young, networked society has political consequences that can overturn the cynical conventional wisdom about voting behavior, turnout and engagement.

This is the first Irish electoral event in which young people have taken the lead and determined the outcome and it has been a bracing, refreshing experience. It had been visible on the streets for weeks in the Yes badges that became ubiquitous during the campaign but it had its most potent and poignant expression in the multitude of young emigrants who came home to vote on Friday. Here, in a single gesture, was all the pathos of separation and longing; an expression of solidarity and belonging; and an enduring loyalty to the nation that had so signally failed them. The tweets from those returning to vote for marriage equality were at once inspiring and heartbreaking, testimony to our failure and their promise.

It has been an emotional time for Ireland’s gays and lesbians, many of whom wept when they voted on Friday, and again when the result came in on Saturday. After decades of exclusion, silence and shame, our LGBT citizens have received the most emphatic affirmation of acceptance from their heterosexual friends, neighbors and family. Much of the credit for this victory must go to Yes Equality, led with such skill and surefootedness by Brian Sheehan and Gráinne Healy. But they stood on the shoulders of others who struggled in tougher times, heroic pioneers such as David Norris, Edmund Lynch and Kieran Rose. New voices emerged during this campaign too, including Una Mullally and Una Halligan, whose personal testimonies were so eloquent in making the case for equality."

The editorial gave credit to the role of Labour Party in making the referendum possible, to other parties for their roles, to the leadership of Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Enda Kenny, and to the NO campaign who mostly "conducted itself with dignity."

The editorial continues:

"Without the Labour Party, which has led with this issue and made it part of its coalition negotiations, this referendum would not have taken place. Other political parties played their part too, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny deserves credit for the leadership he has shown in embracing marriage equality with such enthusiasm. The No campaign conducted itself with dignity, for the most part, and the Iona Institute’s David Quinn was a model of grace in defeat. Some of the issues they raised during the campaign, such as regulating surrogacy, were not relevant to the referendum but they deserve serious, sensitive consideration none the less.

If young people were more engaged with this referendum than with others it was because they saw marriage equality as a civil rights issue rather than just another political choice. The campaign was conducted and won on a personal level, through thousands of individual conversations among Irish citizens, who were guided in the end by an innate sense of decency and generosity. On the face of it, nobody who is not gay will be affected by the introduction of same-sex marriage which, despite the claims of the No campaign, will do nothing to weaken the institution of marriage. But by voting for marriage equality, Ireland also voted for a more inclusive, generous society that recognizes the complexity and diversity of its citizens."

We apologize for having to prune the editorial to meet copyright restrictions. The full editorial is available at the Irish Times. 1

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Reporter Noel Whelan described events outside Dublin Castle where the votes had been counted:

Many dozens of people asked to shake his hand:

"They said 'Thank you', which was humbling, but then almost all of them added: 'Thank you for advocating for us.' I was emotionally overwhelmed by the acknowledgment of my small part in their campaign but I was also deeply distressed by the intensity of their gratitude.

How in our Republic had it come to this? How had the rest of us been blind for so long to the prejudice visited upon the gay and lesbian community? Why had those of us in the mainstream been deaf for decades to their cry for equal recognition? How was it that we had failed to appreciate the sting of discrimination they felt? How come in their sense of isolation it meant so much to them that a straight man in the public eye, who was not a politician, had spoken out for their right to love and marry as equals?

Inside Dublin Castle I had seen the landslide 'Yes' result as a generous recognition by the Irish people of equality for the gay and lesbian community. On Dame Street I was left hoping it was also a partial, if inadequate, apology. The majority should never have had the right to decide on equality for the minority. We should never have been so tardy in doing so.

As a straight man I have always been able to assume that I could marry once I found someone to love who would have me. I can never claim therefore to truly understand how frustrating it must feel to have to ask the entire country in a public vote for the same right.

Even on the 'Yes' side many of us had, however, failed to appreciate the true extent to which passing this referendum would matter to gay men and lesbian women. For those of us who had come late to this issue, last Saturday was the exciting end to a few months of campaigning. For Ireland’s LBGT community and their long-time allies it was the culmination of a 40-year struggle for equal rights. It was more than merely a constitutional change allowing them to marry; it represented real recognition and true acceptance for them and their families.

Being involved in the extraordinary phenomenon that was Yes Equality would have been reward enough. I learned a lot about this country and its politics.

It has been wonderful to have a ringside seat from which to witness the mobilisation of thousands to political activity for the first time on this issue. To see the respectful way they canvassed and the dignified manner in which they dealt with the abuse they were exposed to at some doors was a wonder to behold. Their passion and enthusiasm was of a type not seen for decades in Irish politics." 2

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2015-MAY-27: Roman Catholic Cardinal Raymond Burke attacked the Irish population and ancient Pagans:

Cardinal Burke was the former archbishop of St. Louis. During 2014-NOV, he was demoted from his powerful position as head of the Vatican's highest court. He was assigned to the largely ceremonial post as patron of the Knights and Dames of Malta.

Josephine McKenna, writing for the Religious News Service at the time of Burke's demotion, said:

"During the global bishops’ Synod on the Family held at the Vatican last month, Burke bitterly complained that conservative views were being stifled amid initial signs of a more welcoming approach to gays and lesbians." 3

On MAY-27, after performing mass for the Oxford University Catholic organization -- the Newman Society -- he said that he struggled to understand:

"... any national redefining [of] marriage. ... I mean, this is a defiance of God. It’s just incredible. Pagans may have tolerated homosexual behaviors, they never dared to say this was marriage. ... The culture is thoroughly corrupted, if I may say so, and the children are being exposed to this, especially through the Internet." 4

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2015-MAY-30: Webmaster's personal note:

In a few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will probably issue its ruling in the case Obergefell v. Hodges. It will determine the constitutionality of four same-sex marriage bans in the state constitutions of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee. There is the possibility that the High Court's decision will legalize marriage for same-sex couples across the entire U.S. If so, then it will be an event of immense national significance not seen since the last time that marriage was redefined. That was in 1967 in the case Loving v. Virginia when the same court made marriage available to interracial couples across the country.

If marriage equality happens in late June or early July, it will be a great disappointment to some 30% of the U.S. population who oppose allowing same-sex couples to marry. It will be a major step towards full citizenship and full civil rights for the LGBT minority.

I hope that -- whatever the deeply divided court decides -- that the U.S. media, politicians, religious leaders. LGBT community, and the general population will react with the level of maturity as the world has just viewed from both sides of the conflict in Ireland.

Addendum: On 2015-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court did issue its ruling. Same-sex couples were able, in theory, to marry throughout the U.S. Some county clerks initially resisted and refused to issue marriage licenses, either to same-sex couples or to all couples. But after a few months, same-sex couples were able to obtain marriage licenses and have their marriages solemnized, with the exception of the Territory of American Samoa. There, most of the people are considered American residents, not American citizens. Thus, rulings by the High Court do not necessary apply.

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2015-NOV-17: Gay marriages came to Ireland:

A few routine actions had to be taken in late 2015 before same-sex couples were able to marry:

  • AUG-29: The President of Ireland signed a bill into law, recognizing the results of the referendum as the 34th Amendment to the Irish Constitution.

  • OCT-22: A second bill, the Marriage Act 2015, was passed by the Oireachtas, the Irish Parliament.

  • OCT-29: This bill was signed into law by the Presidential Commission.

  • NOV-16: The new Marriage Act came into effect.

  • NOV-17: The first marriages by same-sex couples were solemnized. 5

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References used:

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

  1. "Marriage Referendum: Ireland sends a message of true equality and inclusiveness to the world," The Irish Times, 2015-MAY-25, at:
  2. Noel Whelan, "We had been blind to prejudice facing gay community," The Irish Times, 2015-MAY-29, at:
  3. Josephine McKenna, "Pope Francis sidelines — but probably can’t silence — conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke (ANALYSIS)." Religious News Service,
  4. Katherine Backler & Liz Dodd, "Ireland 'worse than the pagans' for legalising gay marriage," The Tablet, 2015-MAY-28, at:
  5. "Same-sex marriage in the Republic of Ireland," Wikipedia, as on 2016-SEP-21, at:

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

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Copyright © 2015 & 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2005-MAY-30
Latest update: 2016-OCT-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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