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Ireland votes for Same-Sex Marriage

Celebrations at Dublin Castle

Celebrations at Dublin Castle

Overwhelming majority approve equality

The Republic of Ireland has voted to allow same-sex marriage.  Ireland is the only country to date which has actually held a referendum on the issue.  This was wholly necessary as to allow equal marriage was a constitutional matter, and it must now be enshrined in the Irish republic’s written constitution.

The Irish people could not have made themselves clearer either.  There was a 60% voter turnout, over 62% of which voted Yes.  In voter terms, 1,201,607 people voted in favour of same-sex marriage, while 734,300 voted against.

Ireland had allowed same-sex civil partnerships in 2010.  However, the ‘protections’ under these could be changed by the government.  Now couples in same-sex marriages will have the same constitutional and legal rights and protections as heterosexual married couples.  Those rights and protections can now only be removed by another majority vote.

The vote marks a huge cultural change for Ireland, where the Roman Catholic Church once had not inconsiderable influence, with views towards sexuality and families tended to be extremely conservative.

Come on, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands; time to join the club, drag yourselves into the 21st century and quit being the embarrassment on the doorstep of these isles.

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Irish religious groups object to Equal Marriage

Irish Equal Marriage protest

Irish Equal Marriage protest

Muslims, Christians and one Quaker call for a conscience clause

As the Republic of Ireland heads towards a referendum on equal marriage, Irish Muslims and Christians have become united in drafting a petition calling for a “conscience clause” to protect the rights of the religious to refuse recognise same-sex marriage in certain circumstances, and are railing against the “aggressive secularism” of the Bill.

In what is no more than further religious bigotry, the petition makes it obvious that those supporting it do not recognise equal marriage.  The wording states;

“We the under-signed, for reasons of faith, consider the state of marriage the exclusive province of a man and a woman. This is the understanding of all revealed religions,”

The petition comes after a number of high-profile cases of a number of Irish businesses refusing service to gay customers, and the proponents of the petition make it perfectly clear they support such people;

“The current wording of the 34th amendment of the Constitution on Marriage Equality and Implementation Bill not only allows for same-sex marriage, but obliges all citizens and residents of Ireland to endorse same-sex marriage or potentially face prosecution.  The proposed amendment states marriage may be contracted in accordance of the law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.  We therefore respectfully request that Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald provide for and safeguard the right of people on grounds of ‘conscience’ to abstain from endorsing same-sex marriages while in employment, worship or through social interaction.”

Those backing the petition claim not to be bigoted, and that they recognise the Bill allowing freedom of expression.  The wording however obviously tells a different story.  If businesses are allowed to discriminate on grounds of sexuality, then they obviously are bigoted and do not recognise freedom of expression.

The petition was started on 4 April 2015 by an amalgam of The Irish Council of Imams, the Galway branch of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.  It has since been signed by over 200 members of these groups, and individual Roman Catholic clergy.  So in other words, the usual suspects, which one would have expected no less (and no better) from.

Possibly the saddest aspect of all however is the fact that the wording of the petition was drawn up by clerk of the Galway preparative meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, (also known as the Quakers), Richard Kimball.  Mr Kimball claimed that a conscience clause would not affect the rights of gay people in Ireland to be served by businesses, then went onto cite the cases of a Northern Irish bakery and a printers in Dublin who refused to do business with gay couples, thereby completely contradicting himself.  He then went on in vitriolic language to accuse those campaigning against the said businesses of “aggressive secularism” and claimed there was an “orchestrated campaign” by LGBTQI groups to force people to hide their views

Yes, Richard, Dear – it’s called speaking out against hate speech.

The Society of Friends have yet to either endorse or reject the petition.  However that a Quaker should even draft such an odious and obviously bigoted petition, seeking to legitimise homophobia, is indeed depressing,  The Society of Friends never stood against nor sought a conscience clause in either England’s Same Sex Marriage Act, nor Scotland’s Marriage and Civil Partnerships Act.  It seems therefore that Mr Kimball may very well be out of step with the views of his own faith.

Thankfully the petitioners may have missed the boat, for as the referendum debate is well under way, any such clause is now unlikely to be included.