In what could be one of the fiercest fights for gay marriage across the globe, Ireland’s Prime Minister has thrown down the gauntlet by revealing his ‘strong support’ for the issue.
The Taoiseach Enda Kenny promised to campaign for it in a referendum in front of reporters last night (5 November), ending a long silence over his views on equal marriage.
The Government has decided the Irish public will vote on same-sex marriage by mid-2015.
Kenny made his position public at a function in Dublin telling business people he was going to hold a referendum on the ‘equality issue of gay marriage’ in 18 months.
‘I support that very strongly and we’ll campaign for that when it comes,’ he said.
Both the Catholic Church and gay rights campaigners shot to reveal their campaigns hoping to influence voters of the next year and a half.
The Catholic Church, which is still a powerful force in Ireland, said any change to the nature of marriage would ‘undermine’ it as the fundamental building block of society.
Bishop Denis Nulty said children had a ‘natural right to a mother and a father’.
‘The church will participate fully in the democratic debate leading up to the referendum and will seek with others to reaffirm the rational basis for holding that marriage should be reserved for the unique and complimentary relationship between a woman and a man from which the generation and upbringing of children is uniquely possible,’ he said.
Kieron Rose, chair of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, said he was ‘delighted’ with the Taoiseach’s announcement, describing it as a ‘momentous and proud moment’.
‘The Taoiseach’s support for the full and equal citizenship of lesbian and gay people is deeply heartening and encouraging both for lesbian and gay and people and for the families of gay and lesbian people all over Ireland,’ he said.
‘With the support of the Taoiseach and of Labour and Fine Gael in Government, and with the support of the other Political Parties, we believe that the people of Ireland will support the final step to full constitutional equality for lesbian and gay people and families in the referendum in 2015.’
Dr Richard O’Leary, from pro-LGBT Anglican group Changing Attitude Ireland, said the Government’s intention to hold a referendum ‘will facilitate discussion and challenge the ignorance, especially in the Churches, of the positive experiences of same-sex relationships.’
‘We hope that the Irish Churches will embrace the message of inclusion, which is shared by many Christians, and will not oppose the extension of full civil rights to gay and lesbian persons,’ he said.
‘In particular we hope that the minority Protestant churches in Ireland will empathise with the minority gay community and support legal equality for all the people of Ireland’
But before gay marriage, the Government is also planning on publishing a gay adoption bill, allowing LGBTI people custody rights as well the ability to become surrogate parents. This should be published before Christmas.
The marriage equality public vote is expected to be held in the spring of 2015 with up to six other referendums on changes to the Constitution on the same day.