Work on same-sex marriage implementation Bill proceeds

Officials working on Bill to be required if electorate back measure in poll next year

Thu, Aug 28, 2014, 01:00

The Government is making arrangements to proceed legislatively in the event that the marriage equality referendum is passed in the spring, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed.

Ms Fitzgerald said officials in her department were working on an implementation Bill that would be required if the electorate vote Yes to same- sex marriage in the national poll next year.

“My department is engaged in the early stages of developing the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment and the accompanying legislation including a general scheme of an implementation Bill that will be required if a referendum on opening marriage to same-sex couples is passed,” she said.

A number of Ministers have warned the referendum, backed by the main political parties, could be lost next year, when the Government plans to run several referendums.

An Irish Times opinion poll in April found support for same-sex marriage was increasing, although there were wide differences in attitudes across different age groups and social classes.

67% Yes

Asked how they planned to vote in the referendum on the issue, 67 per cent said they would vote Yes, 21 per cent No and 12 per cent were undecided. The corresponding figures in a November 2012 poll were 53 per cent Yes, 30 per cent No and 17 per cent undecided.

Ms Fitzgerald was responding to a recent parliamentary question from Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffith. The Kerry South deputy asked Ms Fitzgerald if a date would be set for the referendum and if she would make a statement on the matter.

Ms Fitzgerald said after considering the recommendations of the Convention on the Constitution, the Government agreed at its meeting on November 5th, 2013, to hold a referendum on marriage equality.

The Government had announced its intention to hold the referendum in the first half of 2015, but a specific date had not yet been set, she added.

Independent Senator Ronan Mullen said the debate on same-sex marriage had been a “flawed process” after the constitutional convention had voted overwhelmingly in favour of extending marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Minister of State for Justice Aodhán Ó Riordáin last month said there was “complacency” that the referendum would be passed. “It could be lost. It’s going to be one hell of a battle to win it,” he said.

Patchy record

Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch has said successive governments have had a patchy record on winning referendums in recent years.

The Government is looking at holding at least three and possibly five or more referendums in 2015. Three referendums recommended by the constitutional convention will be held next spring: reducing the voting age to 16, reducing the age barrier for presidential candidates from the current 35, and allowing same- sex marriage.

A fourth referendum could be held on the establishment of a unified patent court. Others considered possible include a referendum on the removal of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution, and one on voting rights in presidential elections for citizens living outside the State.