Marriage Referendum: Plans to tap into $200bn gay spend

Ireland looks set to tap the spending power of the pink euro amid calls for the country to become a global champion for gay rights.

The historic approval of same-sex marriage by almost two thirds of voters has been dubbed a social revolution and is now expected to pave the way for further rights campaigns.

The Government is planning a huge tourism promotion this summer to tap the spending power of the pink euro, pound, and dollar following what it describes as the “amazing” international goodwill generated by the gay marriage vote. Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe said the vote had generated priceless positive publicity for the country as a welcoming destination following the historic result.

“The whole world is talking about Ireland in the most glowing terms,” said Mr Donohoe. “I have no doubt that that broadens our appeal as a nation and will encourage people to pay us a visit.”

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Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said the scale of the international media coverage had confounded the agency.

“The economic spend of the LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender — sector is $200bn (€181bn) around the world,” he said. “When New York legalised same-sex marriage, the wedding and honeymoon business generated $165m in the first year.”

The agency this weekend launched a campaign to encourage gay visitors to travel here for weddings and honeymoons. Colourful celebrations erupted in Dublin after the vote, which saw Ireland become the first country in the world to approve gay marriage through a referendum.

Fáilte Ireland’s Alex Connolly said work was underway to tap the potential of gay and lesbian tourism.

“There is a pink pound and the pink euro and they tend to be more affluent and with more disposable income,” said Mr Connolly. “It is certainly a market we want to have more of and the weekend’s story played very well. I think that we were focused on the referendum, that then it dawned on everyone about the potential.”

The Irish Hotels Federation described the international coverage following the vote as “phenomenal” in Ireland’s key tourism markets in North America, Britain, and continental Europe.

Former Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, who spearheaded the vote for same-sex marriage in the Coalition, said Ireland should become an international advocate for gay rights and fight oppression on the global stage.

“If you look at many parts of the world, it is not just gay marriage is not available to gay people, it is that homosexual people in many parts of the world are persecuted, are criminalised and really are second-class citizens,” said Mr Gilmore.

On the back of the yes vote — 1.2m, or 62% of voters, backed it — attention is now turning to when the first ceremonies will take place.

New laws are expected to be passed in the Dáil before the summer recess, with couples obliged to give a registrar the standard three-month notification of a wedding day.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s first openly gay minister, said the result was a “social revolution”.

Elsewhere, those on the no side accepted defeat, with Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, saying the Church now needed to “do a reality check”.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said there are more social issues to address, including the rights of people with disabilities. Changing laws on abortion would be a key issue for Labour in any future government, she added.

“There are a whole range of social issues which, as we develop an economic recovery, we have to ensure that those social issues are properly addressed,” she said.

Civil society groups, including the Yes Campaign, also called for a ban on gay teachers in some schools to be lifted and for proposed transgender recognition legislation to be firmed up.

Attention is also expected to turn to the new voters who contributed to the referendum having the largest turnout in over two decades and whether any party can benefit from the huge interest in the vote.

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