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

Outline map of Ireland 1

Attempts to make marriage available
to same-sex couples in Ireland

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Two brides Same-sex marriage (SSM) in large English-speaking countries:

By the end of 2014, marriage for same-sex couples had been legalized in 17 countries, including most of the large English speaking countries: Canada, England, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales. In the United States, they could also marry in 36 states, the District of Columbia, and within 8 Native reservations. During late 2015-JUN or early 2015-JUL, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the case Obergefell v. Hodges that many observers predict will make marriage available across the remaining states and the five territories in the case Obergefell v. Hodges.

The holdouts were three countries, all democracies, where the public is strongly in favor of same-sex marriage and thus marriage equality appears inevitable: Australia, Ireland, and Northern Ireland.

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About Ireland:

Ireland and Northern Ireland co-habit the same island, as is shown on the above map. Their island is located to the west of England and Scotland.

The predominate religion in both Northern Ireland and Ireland is Roman Catholicism whose hierarchy is totally opposed to marriage equality. They have stated that same-sex marriage would attempt to treat two different concepts -- opposite-sex marriage and same-sex marriage -- as equals even though the Church considers them very different.

Fortunately for the LGBT community, and the future of their civil rights, the authority of the Catholic Church in both countries has been severely weakened by the discovery of high levels of teen sexual abuse by a small minority of priests, and the subsequent failed attempt by the Church to cover-up the knowledge of that abuse. Partly as a result of this, public support for marriage equality in Ireland may well be the highest of any country in the world. There is a near consensus among commentators that same-sex marriage in Ireland is inevitable. It is supported, with various levels of enthusiasm, by all of the political parties.

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Religious identification in Ireland:

During 2005 and 2012, the Gallup International Association conducted massive studies of religion among 57 countries worldwide and produced a "Global Index of Religion and Atheism." 2,3 They asked the question:

"Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person or a convinced atheist?"

During the six years between 2005 and 2011, the polling agency found that the percentage of the adult Irish population who considered themselves a religious person dropped by 22 percentage points from 69% to 47%, and became a minority! Globally, people who claim to be religious dropped by only 9 percentage points. Vietnam was the only country with a drop greater than 22 percentage points. The margin of error in these surveys was ±3 to ±5 percentage points.

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Three major milestones have occurred in Ireland:

  • In 2012, a public opinion poll showed that 75% of adults said they would vote yes in a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples.

  • In 2013, a Convention on the Constitution of Ireland was held. It issued an instruction -- not a suggestion -- to the Irish Government to implement marriage equality.

  • Following the instruction of the Convention, the Government of Ireland promised to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage during the first half of 2015. The date has since been narrowed to 2015-MAY-22.

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Speculation about the results of the referendum:

The referendum will be unique in history. Although some states in the U.S. have held referenda on marriage equality, Ireland will be the first country to do so. Also, the U.S. referenda were held on election day along with the general election for political offices. That meant that the public was heavily motivated to turn out to vote for candidates. A large majority of adults in the states voted for or against marriage equality.

However, with the exception of residents Carlow–Kilkenny constituency where a by-election will be held on the same day, Irish adults will only be voting on two referenda: one on same-sex marriage, and the other to lower the minimum age for candidates for President of Ireland from 35 to 21. Only those adults who are sufficiently motivated will turn out to vote. A large percentage of those opposed to equal rights for the LGBT community will certainly vote. It remains to be seen what percentage of those who favor equality will bother to turn out. That percentage may be low because making marriage available to same-sex couples would not have any direct effect on the lives of the vast majority of Irish voters.

Tiernan Brady, the policy director of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) in Ireland expressed concern that the referendum might fail, for two reasons:

  • With the very encouraging levels of support for same-sex marriage found in the polls, he is concerned that the pro-equality majority might take victory for granted and back off on their efforts.

  • The stakes are very high. Ireland has historically been a conservative country and deeply Catholic. If they attain marriage equality then it might give a boost to campaigns in other countries. This may attract money from conservative groups in the U.S. into the Irish "NO" campaign. If U.S. religious and social conservatives can stop the equality movement in Ireland, then it might have a major effect on other countries.

Brady said:

"Our belief is that there will be major U.S. money involved. This is a critical vote for them." 4

Voting was held on Friday, MAY-22. Results should be available on Saturday.

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Topics covered in this section:

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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. The outline map of Ireland that we used in this section was supplied by D-maps.com. See: http://d-maps.com/ Used by permission.
  2. The terms "Gallup" and "Gallup Poll" often refer to the Gallup Inc. polls, located in Washington, DC. The poll cited above is by Gallup International Association, which is unrelated to Gallup Inc.
  3. "Redc Opinion Poll, Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism - 2012," WIN-Gallup International, at: http://redcresearch.ie/
  4. Niall O'Dowd, "Will Ireland vote for gay marriage? Historic vote coming up," Irish Voice, 2014-OCT-01, at: http://www.irishcentral.com/

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

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

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