Ireland moves toward gay marriage as Church influence wanes
Tue 08 Dec, 2009
Civil partnership likely to be approved but many want marriage
Despite being rocked by strikes, scandals and financial collapse, Ireland’s social transformation continues unabated. Thursday December 3 saw the latest rupture from the past as the Republic of Ireland became the latest country to begin the process of affording recognition to same-sex couples. Dáil Éireann, Ireland’s parliament, read and debated the Civil Partnership Bill 2009 introduced by Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern.
The Bill would, if passed, grant same-sex couples rights in relation to domestic violence, residential tenancies, succession, refugee law, pensions, medical care, access to state benefits and immigration.
Opposition to the Bill was muted. Minister Ahern has told his colleagues, Fianna Fáil lawmakers, concerned about the Civil Partnership Bill that he is ruling out a “freedom of conscience” amendment that would allow any organisations run people offended by homosexuality, such as Church halls and wedding photographers, to consider same-sex couples unmarried.
The Bill’s passage into law this month is virtually assured because of strong backing by opposition parties. However, reaction to the Bill from gay rights organisations has been mixed.
While many campaigners have welcomed the move, MarriagEquaility, a group that campaigns for full recognition of same-sex marriage, says the bill does not go far enough and promotes discrimination against gays and lesbians.
“Civil partnership without the option to marry sends a clear message out to the public that the government do not consider gay and lesbian relationships to be equal. Civil partnership, without a civil marriage option, promotes inequality and may contribute to homophobia,” said MarriagEquality director Moninne Griffith.
The group has written to Irish prime minister Brian Cowen asking he considers upgrading the Bill to allow for access to civil marriage for same-sex couples.
The representative body for students in higher education, the Union of Students in Ireland said implementation of the Bill will enshrine in law second-class citizenship for lesbian, gay and transgendered people.
Lansdowne Market Research conducted a study in 2008 that indicates 80 per cent of Irish people support the right to full marriage for same-sex couples.
Indeed, ironically, the bill will downgrade the status of same-sex couples already married. Jacqui Russell, a gay women from Canada who lives with her wife in Mullingar, County Westmeath says her marriage will now be rendered non-existent.
“I’m upset about section five where it says my marriage will be recognised as a civil partnership – I’m not OK with that,” she said.
Ms Russell says she chose to marry, not to have a civil union: “In Canada we had the choice of civil union vs marriage. We chose marriage for the obvious reason of full equality. I would honestly prefer to have my marriage remain unrecognised and we could choose to become civil partners. The other issue is that disclosure of my marital status would suddenly become a declaration of my sexual orientation. How is that OK?”
Irish sexual mores have tended to lag behind those in other European Union countries as a result of piety. Traditionally a conservative and devoutly Catholic country, Ireland has nonetheless modernised significantly in the last two decades, including in the area of social policy. Condoms were legalised in 1985 and divorce in 1997. Homosexuality ceased to be criminal offence in 1993 after the country was taken to the European Court of Human Rights by academic David Norris, now a senator in Ireland’s upper house, Senead Éireann. Abortion remains outlawed in Ireland.
The Catholic Church, already waning in influence, has been rocked to its core by the revelation last week that the Catholic hierarchy had conspired with the state, including the police, to cover up allegations of widespread child sex abuse by priests. Public calls to expel papal nuncio are growing in strength and Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murphy, is expected to offer his resignation to the Pope today for his role in shielding clerics from criminal investigation.
It’s time for marriage equality. Period.
And congrats to Connecticut where we just celebrated the one year anniversary of our marriage equality law.
Onward to equality,
Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace,
Washington, Connecticut, USA.
By Joseph A. Mustich, Justice of the Peace on 2009 12 08
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