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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Outline map of Ireland 1

Part 6:
SSM in Ireland from 2014-DEC to 2015-APR:
Concerning polls on the 2015 referendum.
Month and date set for vote. New poll.
Faith groups ask for addition of a
"religious freedom to discriminate" clause.

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two brides about to marry 2014-DEC: Noel Whelan, writing for the Irish Times, recommends caution at interpreting poll results:

He recommended that:

"If proponents of this constitutional change want to win, ... they should ignore this and all previous polls on the issue. ..."

"Polling conducted in advance of large-scale public engagement on a precise constitutional change is entirely unreliable as an indicator of the outcome.

Many of those who are asked by pollsters for a view at this stage are merely giving an instinctive response, one that they feel they should give, or one that will put them in the presumed majority. The argument on this issue is far from over."

He suggests that the public has not yet engaged on the issue. The plebiscite turnout is probably going to be only about 60%. Many voters will only make up their minds shortly before the plebiscite. Thus, data from polls taken five months before the vote are quite unreliable.

He concluded that:

"... the precedents suggest that next year’s marriage referendum is as likely to be defeated as it is to succeed." 2

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2014-DEC-16: Month selected for the same-sex marriage referendum:

The Irish Cabinet decided to hold the same-sex marriage referendum in May of 2015. A specific date has not yet been chosen. A by-election in Carlow/Kilkenny and a referendum on lowering the minimum age for presidential candidates will likely be held at the same time. 3

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2015-JAN: Poll shows 76% of adults favor same-sex marriage:

A poll of 1,007 adults was conducted between JAN-11 and JAN-15 by Red C/Paddy Power. It shows that 76% of adults favor allowing same-sex couples to marry. This includes 81% of women and 72% of men, and 90% of young adults aged 18 to 24. Support drops with age, reaching 54% for those aged 65 and older. Support is highest in Dublin at 84% and lowest in Munster Province in the South of Ireland at 69%. The margin of error is ±3.1 percentage points. 4

Marriage equality seems to be a non-issue in Ireland. Of 183 comments posted by article readers, only two dealt with same-sex marriage.

We expect that as the May referendum approaches, fear-based ads and messages encouraging the continuation of discrimination against same-sex couples will appear in the media and will reduce support significantly.

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2015-MAY-02: The date of the referendum is set:

Henry McDonald, writing for the Guardian Newspaper, said that Ireland will be:

"... the first country in the world to hold a referendum to legalize gay marriages. The vote takes place on 22 May." 5

McDonald reports that:

"In a series of recent opinion polls, support for gay marriage in Ireland has stood at around 70% of the electorate although among older voters there is a small majority who will vote no."

Support for marriage equality appears to be considerably higher than it currently is in the U.S. where support is approaching 60%.

Webmaster's comment: [bias alert]:

IMHO, the idea of the public voting on whether a group of people should have equal rights to the majority is troubling. Even more so, is the criterion that if 50% of the voters plus one votes against equality, then same-sex couples will not be able to marry. If human rights must be voted on, I feel that about a 90% vote in favor of inequality should be the minimum threshold to deny a minority group equal rights.

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2015-APR-16: Faith groups asked that additional clause be added to the upcoming referendum:

Some Christian and Muslim groups have petitioned Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to add an additional clause to the upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage. They want a clause added to give owners of businesses in the wedding industry the religious freedom to discriminate against their potential same-sex couple customers who seek goods and/or services for their weddings.

This "religious freedom to discriminate" right is a hot topic in the United States where at least a dozen such businesses such as wedding cake bakers, wedding photographers, renters of wedding venues, etc. have run afoul of local or state human rights legislation, have been found guilty, and were fined. These ordinances and laws state that public accommodations -- businesses that serve the general public -- cannot discriminate against potential customers on the basis of the latter's skin color, race, gender, religion, etc. Sometimes they include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

The presence of these laws create a major bind to some religious conservatives who feel in conflict among:

  • Their religious beliefs, which are often based on "clobber" passages in the Bible or Qur'an and which they interpret as opposing same-gender sexual behavior.

  • Two statements attributed to Jesus in the Gospels which require his followers to treat others as they would like to be treated in return. They refer to the "Golden Rule:"
    • "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12, King James Version.

      "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, King James Version.

Since no owner of a public accommodation wants to personally be refused goods and services when they go out shopping, Jesus' commands would appear to require those who are Christians to serve their same-sex couple customers. Islam and all the major religions of the world have similar

  • Human Rights legislation often includes sexual orientation as a protected class, and may fine owners of public accommodations if they do discriminate.

There had recently been well publicized instances of a baker in Northern Ireland and a printer in Ireland who refused to provide goods or services to a same-sex couple.

Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, writing for the Irish Examiner, said:

"Those behind the petition — including a prominent member of the Quakers, the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, the Council of Imams, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church — have claimed that without a conscience clause these individuals will 'risk prosecution' if they hold firm to their beliefs 'in employment, worship, or social interaction." 6

In reality, it is not the beliefs of religious conservatives that have resulted in problems. These are well protected throughout Western democracies. Their difficulties are created by their personal decision to discriminate against others. That decision has its origin in their beliefs.

He also wrote that the Irish Prime Minister:

"Taoiseach Enda Kenny has ruled out any potential 'conscience clause' being inserted in the referendum on marriage equality. ..." 6

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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. Outline map of Ireland was supplied by See: Used by permission.
  2. "Same-sex marriage: why the proposal may not be accepted by voters," The Irish Times, 2014-DEC-12, at:
  3. Referendums on same-sex marriage and voting age for May 2015," The Irish Times, 2014-DEC-17, at:
  4. Daragh Brophy, "Government parties are up FIVE POINTS in the first poll of the year," The, 2015-JAN-14, at:
  5. Henry McDonald, "Ireland archbishop raises concerns about yes vote in gay marriage poll," The Guardian, 2015-MAY-02, at:
  6. Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, "Taoiseach rules out ‘conscience clause’ in same-sex marriage vote," Irish Examiner, 2015-APR-16, at:

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

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Copyright © 2014 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-DEC
Latest update: 2015-MAY-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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