Law to go before the Dáil ahead of summer recess
Marriage ceremonies for gay couples could be happening in Ireland by the end of the year following the country’s resounding yes to same-sex equality.
Twenty-two years after homosexuality was decriminalised, the Republic wrote itself into history books with 1.2m people voting for the social reform — a world first.
New laws paving the way for same-sex marriage will pass in parliament in weeks, ministers said.
The landmark referendum, passed by 62% of voters, heralds a dramatic shift in social values for a country traditionally held up as a bastion of Catholicism and conservative lifestyles.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny praised the courageous step by Irish voters, including the tens of thousands who registered for the first time and the many emigrants who travelled home to vote.
“The decision makes every citizen equal and will strengthen the institution of marriage for all existing and future marriages. All people now have an equal future to look forward to,” said Mr Kenny.
Already the resounding victory for gay rights campaigners is being billed as a massive boost for the Republic’s reputation on the international stage.
The official result showed almost 1.95m people went to the polls — a higher than normal turnout of 61%.
Some 1,201,607 people backed reform of the 1937 Constitution, enshrining in the section titled ‘The Family’ that: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”
Some 734,300 people voted against the proposal.
There was only one blot on the landscape of the country’s 43 constituencies, with Roscommon-South Leitrim opposing the extension of marriage rights by a narrow margin of 51.42% voters.
The biggest support came in Dublin South East, where just shy of 75% of voters backed the reform.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed that the law on same-sex marriage will be put to the Dáil before the summer recess, clearing the way for the first ceremonies to take place before the end of the year.
The result sparked some soul searching in one of the country’s leading Catholic clerics.
Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, declared the groundswell of support for same-sex couples a social revolution and warned that it did not just happen in the day before polling.
“I think really the Church needs to do a reality check,” the cleric said.
Church of Ireland bishops said: “We would now sincerely urge a spirit of public generosity, both from those for whom the result of the referendum represents triumph, and from those for whom it signifies disaster.”
The huge majority for gay marriage also raised questions about if or when a similar referendum or reform would be introduced in the North — the only region of the UK not to adopt similar laws.
Colm O’Gorman, director of Amnesty International Ireland and a married gay man with two children, said the vote sent a message that all people are cherished and valued.
“It has a great resonance here in Ireland but it’s one that’s going to echo around the world,” he said.
Amnesty revealed plans to ramp up its campaigns for marriage equality in Belfast with a rally planned for mid-June, while Sinn Féin also pledged to up its efforts on the issue.
Tanáiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton, whose party spearheaded political calls for the referendum after going into coalition with Fine Gael in 2011, said Ireland had chosen to create a more compassionate and egalitarian constitution.
She spoke passionately about those who will gain most from the reform.
“Most of all, I’ll think of the children,” she said.
“The children in every town, village, and schoolyard who will now grow up knowing their country accepts them — whoever it is they one day grow to be, and whoever it is they one day grow to love.”
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