The people will get to vote on the issue of same sex marriage in 2015, after the Cabinet agreed to hold a number of referendums in that year.
The Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, has already signalled that the issue of gay couples adopting children will be dealt with before then, so that the referendum can be on the issue of same sex marriage alone.
It is thought that legislation will first be needed to iron out other rights for same-sex couples, such as the right to adopt a child.
The cabinet is also wary of voter fatigue, after already holding six referendums since the current government came to power.
Gilmore said it is important that there is public appetite for a referendum on same sex marriage, and that it is important for Labour to win it.