Marriage Referendum: Q&A: So what happens now we’ve voted yes?

Questions answered now there has been a yes vote in the marriage equality referendum

We’ve heard a lot about Ireland making history for gay rights but how come, same-sex couples have been getting married for years?

It is the only time the equality reform has been tested in a popular vote and more than 1.2m people backed it — just shy of a two-thirds majority.

That’s great news, so when can we see gay couples marching down the aisle, so to speak?

Well, it’s unlikely there’ll be any ‘Here Comes the Brides or Grooms’ being played out on hallowed ground. However, when the legislation passes through the Dáil in the summer it should be enacted by the autumn and ceremonies are likely any time in the last three months of 2015.

Is the Republic not known for being staunchly Catholic?

Traditionally, yes. Most of this generation of voters were educated in Catholic schools but only about one third of the population are regular Mass-goers.

What about the politicians? Were they late to the party?

Undoubtedly the social shift happened long before the vote. But for big ticket issues that go to the core of people’s private lives, it’s fair to say establishment Ireland has been behind the curve. Divorce was only legalised in the mid-90s, the ban on homosexuality only lifted in 1993, and abortion is still outlawed unless a woman’s life is in danger.

What happens to all the civil partnerships that have taken place here since 2011?

About 1,000 couples have enjoyed that commitment. The new rules have yet to be finalised but it is likely that existing civil partners will keep their status and rights that go with it, such as tax and inheritance, unless they choose to marry. If they say “I do”, the civil partnership will be dissolved and the marriage takes prominence.

We heard a lot of talk about the Constitution, so where does that come into it?

That was at the very heart of the change. Bunreacht na hÉireann was enacted in 1937. Friday’s vote will introduce a clause in ‘The Family’ section stating: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

In international terms, what does it mean for Ireland?

Supporters and rights groups have heralded it as a new era. Ireland is now one of more than 20 countries to have some form of gay marriage, the first being the Netherlands in 2001. The North does not allow gay marriage.

So if I was to take the side of the opponents of gay marriage — what’s next then? Gay adoption, surrogacy, I suppose?

No. An ex-minister was drafting laws to regulate surrogacy when he lost his job. It is expected officials will revive those plans over the next year. The adoption argument was a bit of a red herring. It is already open to gay people, those in civil partnerships, or cohabiting couples where only one of the partners is legally a parent.

What about gay marriage ceremonies in churches — does a change in the Constitution mean new anti-discrimination laws?

No. You won’t see a cardinal or bishop being sued for refusing to marry two gay people. Ceremonies will be civil. However, the shift has sparked some soul-searching, with Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin telling the Catholic Church to take a “reality check”.

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