Referendum: Historic, divisive campaign draws to a close

Extending marriage rights to same-sex partners would remove the last bastion of institutional homophobia, a gay couple have said.

After casting their ballots in a historic referendum, Richard Lucey, 48 and Paul Higgins, 50, said the vote was about sending a message of support and acceptance to young people coming to terms with their sexuality.

The couple, from Clontarf, north Dublin, who have been together 19 years, said they are pretty sure marriage would be their next step if the vote passes.

“It’s only 22 years since homosexuality was decriminalised and there’s only one group in society who can’t get married,” Mr Lucey said.

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“And it sends a message to young people. The overwhelming thing is around equality and eliminating the last step of institutional homophobia.”

Both men were confident that the proposal to amend the Constitution would be passed, with the high voter turnout key to success.

“I can’t really countenance that my fellow citizens would go out to vote and there would be a majority who would vote against this. It just isn’t going to happen,” Mr Higgins said.

Referendum: Historic, divisive campaign draws to a close

Paul Higgins and Richard Lucey, who have been together for 19

years, get set to cast their votes. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA

“I’m not complacent and I wouldn’t have said that yesterday but after being out to vote and seeing it for myself I’m confident it will pass.”

The two men wed in a civil partnership four years ago after the government introduced a new registration system for gay couples in 2010, with the first ceremonies taking place in spring 2011.

“Civil partnership has helped and look, it was introduced and the sky didn’t fall in,” Mr Higgins said.

“Today signals basic equality for gay and lesbian people in Ireland. It’s a bigger issue than marriage and what it really means is full acceptance in society.”

Mr Lucey said he talked to his mother, aged in her 80s, about the referendum and explained his campaign and believes she would vote yes.

Both men, who canvassed for marriage rights, said they felt a sense of celebration around Dublin in the run-up to the vote, albeit with a gay friend of Mr Lucey’s being attacked by a gang of youths in the city centre in recent weeks.

“No doesn’t offer anybody anything,” Mr Lucey said.

“It’s a comment on who we are as a people. There’s an enormously high incidence rate of suicide and attempted suicide in gay and lesbian kids and anything that says the people have voted and voted in favour of acceptance and equality and to support these people, that’s hugely important.”

Visit our special Referendum 2015 section for all the latest news and analysis

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