Cabinet set to back vote on same-sex union
Government parties likely to push out referendum on marriage until 2015
Members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community highlight their calling for the introduction of gay marriage in Ireland
The Cabinet is today expected to approve a referendum on same-sex marriage but the issue will not be voted on until 2015 at the earliest.
The expectation in the Coalition parties is that referendums on same-sex marriage and other issues proposed by the constitutional convention will not take place next year.
A number of Fine Gael TDs have expressed the fear that a referendum next year so soon after the defeat of the proposal to abolish the Seanad could lead to another defeat for the Government.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said it was unlikely another referendum would be held before 2015.
“I suspect the general public are suffering from referendum fatigue,” he said. “Having been in the Dáil for many years, I can’t recall so many referenda taking place within such a short space of time on so many very important issues. It may well be the case that 2014 is a referendum-free year and that if further referendums take place, possibly they should be in 2015.”
Full civil marriage
The constitutional convention voted last
April to recommend a change in the Constitution to allow for same-sex couples to have a full civil marriage and not just a civil partnership.
It is understood that a memo being brought to Cabinet today by Mr Shatter will support the convention’s recommendation that the Constitution should be changed to provide for same-sex marriage. The matter was due to be discussed by Cabinet last week but it was deferred to allow Taoiseach Enda Kenny to consult Fine Gael backbenchers on the matter.
He said at the weekend that he would be making his views on the matter known today.
Apart from “referendum fatigue” Fine Gael TDs have also expressed a range of worries about holding a referendum on the issue in the next year or so. One reason is that local and European elections will be held next May and they fear any referendum before that date could prove a distraction.
However, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar suggested that holding the referendum on the same day as the elections would ensure a high turnout.
This view is not widely shared in Fine Gael and many Labour TDs also believe that it would make political sense to wait for at least a year before putting the issue to the people.
Another argument advanced in favour of delay is that it will give Mr Shatter time to enact the Children and Family Bill which deals with the a range of complex issues relating to the guardianship of children, including guardianship by same-sex couples.
Supporters of same-sex marriage believe that it is important to get this piece of legislation on the statute books before the referendum is held.
The heads of the Bill are scheduled to be published by Christmas and it should be enacted by the middle of next year. It will not deal directly with the issue of adoption by same-sex couples which will inevitably feature in the referendum debate but legislation on that issue might also be necessary before the Government proceeds to a referendum.