Sinn Féin promises ‘vigorous’ campaign for same-sex marriage

Many people have a family member, friend or colleague who is gay, says Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald at the launch of Sinn Féin’s Marriage Equality campaign at Buswells Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald at the launch of Sinn Féin’s Marriage Equality campaign at Buswells Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

A Yes vote for same-sex marriage would be an affirmation that all Irish citizens should be “free, equal and happy”, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

At the launch of the party’s campaign in support of same-sex marriage, Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin would campaign vigorously in the run-up to the May 22nd vote. It plans to send leaflets to half a million households and to canvass homes in all constituencies.

“This is about the right to marry for those who wish to marry, but it’s also about something far more profound,” she said. “It’s about an absolute recognition of people’s equality, respect for people’s identity, respect for people’s choices and an affirmation that we wish our citizens to be free, equal and happy,” said Ms McDonald.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said many people had a family member, friend or work colleague who was gay. “They want what we want – the right to live their lives as full and contributing citizens,” he said at a press conference in Dublin.

He called on people to join the canvass or to take part in the “informal campaign” by talking to friends, family members, colleagues and neighbours and asking them to vote yes.

The party’s justice spokesman, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, said that as a republican party, equality was at the core of what Sinn Féin stood for. He said he hoped for a positive campaign, adding that despite polls showing a clear lead for the Yes side there was “no room for complacency”. An Ipsos MRBI survey for The Irish Times last month found that, when undecided voters were excluded, support for a Yes vote stood at 74 per cent (down six points since December) while support for the No side was up six points to 26 per cent. Urban voters, women and young people are most likely to vote for change.

Fintan Warfield, the Sinn Féin mayor of South County Dublin, said a Yes vote would send a message to young people who were gay, reassuring them that “it’s okay to be gay, to come to terms with your sexuality in the school yard or in your local GAA club”.

Sinn Féin is also calling for a Yes vote in the referendum on reducing the minimum age for presidential candidates from 35 to 21. That vote also takes place on May 22nd.

Meanwhile, writer Bruce Arnold took issue with the Referendum Commission for saying approval of the proposal would not result in any change to the constitutional status of marriage.

In its guide to the referendum, the commission states that the constitutional status of marriage would remain unchanged and that marriage between two people of the same sex would have the same status under the Constitution as a marriage between a man and a woman.

In a press release, Mr Arnold claimed the commission was “factually and legally” incorrect. “If the referendum is passed, a radical constitutional change will be enacted, Mr Arnold said.

“The institution of marriage will be defined in the Constitution for the first time, the established natural-law meaning of “marriage” will be replaced by a new artificial definition and this new legal construct will be subject to legislation to a greater extent than ever before,” he added.

If the referendum is passed, the following line will be added to article 41 of the Constitution: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”