Referendum confusion ‘will be addressed’

The Government has asserted that confusion around the upcoming same sex marriage referendum will be addressed and separate legislation, on parental rights, will be published in advance of voting.

A special Cabinet meeting this morning will consider the wording for the same sex marriage referendum as well as that for a separate vote on reducing the minimum age for a presidential candidate.

A Government spokesman said yesterday the wording for the same sex marriage vote was expected to be published later this week.

The spokesman conceded issues have been “conflated” around the vote in relation to the separate issue of separate legislation that will make changes to parental rights.

That legislation, the Children and Family Relationship Bill, will be published in February and enacted before the same sex marriage vote, the Department of Justice said.

“We want to get it right,” the spokesman insisted.

“The Government is aware of the importance of maximising the clarity of putting issues to the people.”

The same-sex marriage referendum is due to be held in May alongside a proposal to reduce the age, from 25 to 21, for contesting the Presidency. Both votes will be held on the same day as the Carlow-Kilkenny byelection.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said yesterday that once the Government decides on the wording, a referendum commission will be established.

“Assuming the Government sign off on this with the minister for justice, we will then be in a position to appoint a referendum commission and give it plenty of time to do its work,” he said.

The formal process will begin with the publication of a referendum Bill containing the wording of the constitutional amendment to be voted on by the people.

The Equality Referendum Bill will have to be passed by both houses of the Oireachtas before campaigning is allowed to begin. After the referendum Bill is passed, an order setting the date for polling will be made. It must be within 30-90 days of the order being made. A referendum commission will then be established.

Separate legislation that proposes to modernise the law regarding the parental rights of children living in diverse family forms will be published ahead of the vote, it was confirmed last night.

It will translate the law relating to children and family relationships including custody, guardianship and access to children. It will also set out how parentage is to be assigned in cases of assisted reproduction.

The proposed legislation also allows for civil partnered or cohabiting couples to be eligible jointly to adopt a child.

Gay marriage campaigners say many of the issues of parentage for same-sex families will be legislated for within the Bill.

Meanwhile, students representatives say 90% of their members are in favour of a Yes vote in the same sex marriage vote. USI president Laura Harnmon said the vote was “one of the most important civil rights issues of our generation”. She also said it was important that all students on both sides of the debate had their say when campaigning begins.


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