Gay couples in Ireland are awaiting the results of the country’s referendum on same-sex marriage taking place this Friday. Ireland’s Prime Minister, Edna Kenny, has made a final plea for a Yes vote.
If Ireland does indeed vote ‘yes’ to gay marriage, it will be the first country in the world where the electorate has made the decision. The decision would also redefine marriage in Ireland’s constitution (a first for any country), a matter of great concern to church leaders.
Other countries have simply changed the law, but because of Ireland’s extensive written constitution it can only be amended by a nation referendum.
“We have absolute religious freedom here,” said Ireland’s Prime Minster, Edna Kenny.
“The churches, irrespective of what church they are, have the absolute right to continue their teaching of their doctrine, their principles and their beliefs. Civil law is a separate matter and there may be questions asked in any school about the civil law.”
He added that it was about “the right to say two small words, made up of three simples letters – I do.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin, head of the Roman Catholic Church, said: “I think many people will still continue to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman open to children and perhaps we’ll have a difficulty because we’ll be using the term marriage for something that we believe it is not.
“But I think in all of it, hopefully we continue to respect one another’s freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom to speak.”
Over the past few weeks of the campaign an additional 68,000 voters have registered and pro-gay marriage campaigners claim that this is a great sign that it will boost the Yes cause.
Homosexuality was illegal in Ireland only 22 years ago, but there have been some 2,000 civil partnerships since 2010.