Belfast Telegraph

Irish gay marriage referendum Q&A: Everything you need to know about Friday's vote

On the eve of the Republic of Ireland's same-sex marriage referendum we answer the burning questions...

So Ireland is the first country in the world to have a popular vote on whether gay people can marry, but why?

The Republic has a written constitution which can only be changed by referendum. It contains Article 41, titled The Family. Voters are being asked to support or reject a new clause being added to the 78-year-old document to read: "Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex."

Other clauses in the section not up for debate and which to some might appear at odds with 21st century life include that the woman's place is at home. It says the State shall endeavour to "ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home".

So, is it a big deal in international terms?

In 2001 the Netherlands was the first country to bring in gay marriage, followed two years later by Belgium. It is now legal in 21 countries, including the UK since last year. But for a country that only decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, yes, it's a significant move.

What about gay people having families - adoption, surrogacy and the like?

This referendum has nothing to do with that, although a lot of contentious debate has centred on how those issues will be affected. The proposal is simply to extend marriage rights to gay people. Adoption is already open to gay people, those in civil partnerships or cohabiting couples where only one of the partners is legally a parent. Surrogacy is unregulated in Ireland, which the Government is working to legislate for.

And what about gay marriage ceremonies - does a change in the constitution mean new anti-discrimination laws?

No. There won't be a "gay cake"-type lawsuit against the Catholic Church for refusing to marry a same-sex couple. Churches will continue to decide for themselves whether to solemnise a marriage, but Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin said the church may look at whether it continues to perform the civil side of solemnisation if the change comes in.

Ireland already has civil partnerships for gay people, so why is this new change on the table?

About 1,000 couples have enjoyed that commitment since 2010. But the new proposals would extend civil marriage rights and bring gay newlyweds into the same standing as a heterosexual couple. Essentially, if passed, married gay people would have a constitutional standing which could only be removed in the future by popular vote.


From Belfast Telegraph