What is Marriage Equality

DAIL3Ailbhe Smyth, MarriagEquality Committee, addresses Dail rally for LGBT rightsWhat is Marriage Equality?

Marriage Equality is a new initiative working for civil marriage for gay and lesbian people.

What will Marriage Equality do?

We will build a broad base of support that seeks legislative equality for gay and lesbian people.

But hasn't the Government said it is going to legislate for this?

No. All the Government has done is commit to a limited form of Civil Partnership legislation.

But aren't Civil Partnerships the same as marriage?

No. Civil Partnerships are not marriage. They are a separate and unequal institution that does not give the same rights to gay and lesbian people as marriage provides for heterosexual couples.

Isn't the Government opposed to gay and lesbian marriage?

The Government's own "Colley Report" commissioned in 2006 to examine partnership options clearly stated that marriage is the only option that would provide full equality for same sex couples.

But isn't gay and lesbian marriage against the Constitution?

Marriage Equality shares the opinion of some of Ireland's finest constitutional lawyers who see no constitutional impediment to providing marriage equality.

Is Ireland ready for gay and lesbian marriage?

Surveys show that Irish society is ready and open to the introduction of legislation to allow gay and lesbian people access to civil marriage. There are many gay and lesbian couples living in Ireland who wish to marry, others who have already been married in other countries, some of whom are raising children in loving and safe families. Gay and lesbian marriage is already a reality in this country. Our legislators need to catch-up.

How many couples are there?

The 2006 census revealed that there are over 2,000 co-habiting gay and lesbian couples in Ireland. While this is certainly an under-representation of the true picture these couples are currently denied a huge range of legal benefits and protections in terms of taxation, maintenance, healthcare and immigration that are automatically granted to heterosexual couples when they marry. This situation simply isn't fair.

And how would the Government go about introducing gay and lesbian marriage?

There are a number of options:

  • they could introduce new legislation for full marriage equality
  • they could change the Civil Registration Act that covers civil marriage to include same sex couples
  • they could hold a referendum to change Bunreacht na hEireann

What's the situation in other countries?

In the European Union gay and lesbian marriage exists in the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain. In addition Canada, South Africa, and Massachusetts in the United States have introduced marriage equality.

Catholic Spain?

Yes. The Spanish Government decided to introduce full marriage equality because they realised that half measures would mean simply returning again and again to the issue. Instead they dealt with it in one go by providing equality of access to marriage for gay and lesbian people on the same basis as for heterosexuals.

And what about children?

The reality is that there already are gay and lesbian couples in Ireland lovingly raising and parenting children. But these families are denied the same rights as heterosexual couples. In fact, under the current system a child parented by a gay and lesbian couple does not have the right to have his or her parents recognised by the law nor are such children protected in the same way as children of married heterosexuals.

Surely it is a step too far to allow same sex couples to adopt?

In 2006 there were 240 Irish adoption orders. The majority of Irish adoptions are conducted by parents -some of whom are gay or lesbian - adopting their own children. There is no right to adoption currently for heterosexual couples, just a right to be considered. This is what Marriage Equality is seeking for gay and lesbian people - the same rights as heterosexual couples to be considered for adoption.

What can I do and where do I find out more?

Marriage Equality believes that gay and lesbian people must be prepared to ask for equality. We must go directly to our local TDs and tell them that our rights are being infringed by being denied access to civil marriage. You can get more information, advice and support from the Marriage Equality office by calling 01-6599459 or e-mailing info@marriagequality.ie.