Proper debate needed here to ensure support of the Irish people
Welcoming the passage of the second stage of the Civil Marriage Bill through the House of Commons last night, Chair of the Fine Gael LGBT Group and member of the Constitutional Convention, Deputy Jerry Buttimer, said that while there is a palpable sense that the mood is changing in terms of people’s views on gay marriage in Ireland, proper debate is needed to ensure the support of the Irish people on the matter.
“The backing of the proposal by 400 MPs in the House of Commons last night is significant, as it brings the possibility of same sex marriage a step closer for gay and lesbian couples in England and Wales. The news was, understandably, greeted with widespread anticipation that the passage of the Bill by the British Parliament will further advance the cause of same sex marriage here at home.
“The freedom for all citizens to be able to marry and to publically commit to the person they love and want to spend the rest of their life with should be available to all. It is my firm belief however, that this issue needs to be given the attention it deserves to ensure a favourable outcome and an understanding by the Irish people that full marriage is as important to gay and lesbian couples as it is to straight ones.
“The issue of gay marriage is set to be debated by the Constitutional Convention in a little over two months’ time. If the Convention decides that a referendum on the matter should be put to the people, the last thing we want is for it to be defeated at the hands of an electorate that does not understand what it is being asked of it; or worse still one that does not care.
“While recent opinion polls suggest that a majority of Irish people are in favour of the introduction of same sex marriage*, we must remember that just three weeks before the Children’s Referendum was held last November, a RedC poll for the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI), found that almost three-quarters of the electorate were in favour of the referendum. That referendum, which would see children’s rights enshrined in the Constitution for the first time, while offering better protection to them, saw just one in three people actually casting a vote and the referendum being passed by a slimmer margin than many expected.
“Gay and lesbian couples in the UK are now a step closer to being able to declare their love for one another as full and equal citizens. Securing the same rights here in Ireland will, we hope, follow. Ensuring, however, that the Irish electorate is engaged on the issue and, more importantly, is supportive of the fight is key to making that aspiration a reality.”
* A Millward Brown Lansdowne poll carried out for Marriage Equality late last year showed 75 per cent of people would vote yes in a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples.