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Ireland seen as 'accepting nation'

Published 23/05/2015

Kenneth Toft, right, is to marry his partner Paul Stobbs later this summer (handout/PA Wire)
Kenneth Toft, right, is to marry his partner Paul Stobbs later this summer (handout/PA Wire)

A gay Irishman who is marrying his partner in six weeks' time has welcomed the result of the referendum, saying it reflects what an accepting nation the Emerald Isle is.

London magistrate Kenneth Toft is due to marry his partner of 12 years - Paul Stobbs - at Langley Castle in Northumberland in July.

Asked how he felt about the outcome, he said that although the couple are not particularly affectionate in public, next time they visit Dublin, they will be holding hands proudly.

"One of the first things I will be doing when I next visit Dublin, is walking down the street holding hands with Paul. It wasn't that I couldn't before, but knowing that the law has changed, and that you're absolutely recognised, and just as important as everybody else - I'm going to highlight that and show off."

Mr Toft, from Kent, said that while somebody had to win or lose the referendum, he had been most surprised by the support that the "No campaign" had received.

But he continued: "One of the things that makes the result so humbling and so powerful, is that people voted not because it affects them, but because they know it affects future generations."

He also said that the result showed how welcoming the Irish people are, "no matter what race, gender, creed you are, they will let you in".

Mr Toft, who was born into a Catholic family in Kildare, said that although he was disappointed he could not get back to cast his vote, he had sent his friends and family out in their "droves", and as far as he knew, they had all voted "yes".

"But I did have a vote registered, and I asked my old flatmate to send that over so that I've got a memento of the history that has been made, " said Mr Toft.

He explained that although 70% of his wedding guests will be travelling from Ireland, he did not consider it an option for the venue because he did not want a civil partnership.

The 35-year-old said: "It would have been something that I considered, but I never wanted to go down the route of the civil partnership. But it still would have been nice to have the option - something which people in Ireland are now going to have."

He added that while people still called marriage an institution, it was not. "It is your right - it is your right to marry."

Mr Toft also explained how he used to be a marriage registrar in Dublin in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"Same sex marriage was an absolute no. There was a complete blanket ban. It was very much 'Ok, homosexuality has been decriminalised, but you are still different'.

"But now it has been decriminalised for so long, civil partnerships have been in place, and now marriage is legal, it is that you're not different anymore.

"You're not the same, but you still have the same rights, the same future and the same stability."

Asked if it had been difficult performing marriage ceremonies for heterosexual couples, knowing that he couldn't get married himself, Mr Toft said: "At that time I was too young for marriage to be on my radar.

"Fifteen years later, it has only just come on to my radar. If I had been this age, then perhaps it would have been a bitter pill to swallow - providing a service that I wasn't allowed to participate in.

"But I honestly can't say that it affected me when I was working as a registrar."

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