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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 19, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 16
Irish government panel supports marriage equality
Section One
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Irish government panel supports marriage equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Ireland's Constitutional Convention has voted overwhelmingly in favor of extending marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Irish Times reported on April 15 that 79% of the convention's members voted to recommend that the constitution be amended to allow for same-sex marriage, with only 19% opposed. The remaining members abstained.

The Convention, convened last year to consider amendments to Ireland's constitution, consists of one-third politicians and two-thirds members of the public.

'SHALL' VS. 'MAY'
On the question of what form the constitutional change should take, 78% of the members voted for a directive amendment stating, 'The State shall enact laws providing for same-sex marriage.' Seventeen percent opted for a weaker statement: 'The State may enact laws providing for same-sex marriage.'

Supporters of the proposal cheered, and some wept when the result was announced. LGBT rights advocates hailed the decision as a landmark on the road toward equality for same-sex couples and urged the Irish government to call a referendum on the issue.

The government has pledged to hold a debate in Parliament and set out its response within four months.

Convention chairman Tom Arnold thanked the participants for conducting the proceedings in a fair and transparent manner. 'This weekend's discussions have been both passionate and thoughtful, both heartfelt and rigorous,' he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore welcomed the result, saying he had always believed 'that our laws reflect the past, not the future' on this issue.

'It's not the role of the State to pass judgment on who a person falls in love with, or who they want to spend their life with,' he said.

'A MAJOR MILESTONE'
The Convention also voted in favor of recommending that the State pass laws 'incorporating changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship, and the upbringing of children.'

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he welcomed the support expressed for 'the reform and modernization' of such laws. 'Essential work has been undertaken on the preparation of a new Family Relationships and Children's Bill to address these issues in relation to children, and details of the bill will be published in the coming months,' he said.

In a joint statement on April 15, advocacy groups Marriage Equality, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties welcomed the outcome as 'an historic step.'

'It is a major milestone on the remarkable journey to full constitutional protection for Lesbian and Gay people and families in Ireland,' said GLEN director Brian Sheehan.

'It builds on the extraordinary progress we have achieved over the last 20 years, and clearly demonstrates that Ireland is ready to take the next step to complete that remarkable journey.'

BISHOPS NOT PLEASED
Predictably, the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference deplored the outcome, expressing hope that a public referendum would preserve the nation's current marriage laws.

'While the result of the Constitutional Convention is disappointing, only the people of Ireland can amend the constitution,' the Catholic Communications Office said in a statement.

'The Catholic Church will continue to promote and seek protection for the uniqueness of marriage between a woman and a man, the nature of which best serves children and our society.'

The same-sex marriage discussion had attracted considerable public interest, with more than 1,000 submissions received by the Convention. The vote followed a weekend of discussion on the issue, where members heard from legal experts as well as supporters and opponents of the proposal.

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