Status of marriage will remain unchanged if amendment passed

Referendum Commission guide to be sent to 2 million households at end of month

Voters will be asked to vote on on the questions of marriage equality and the age of eligibility for contesting presidential elections on May 22nd. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Voters will be asked to vote on on the questions of marriage equality and the age of eligibility for contesting presidential elections on May 22nd. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Constitutional status of marriage will remain unchanged if the same-sex marriage amendment is passed, the Referendum Commission has said.

Launching its €2.7 million public information campaign for two referendums that take place on May 22nd, the commission outlined what would happen if voters approved proposals to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples and to reduce the age at which candidates are eligible to run for the presidency from 35 to 21.

If the same-sex marriage referendum is passed, it said, a marriage between two people of the same sex will have the same status under the Constitution as a marriage between a man and a woman.

Both types of married couple will be recognised as a family and be entitled to the Constitutional protection for families, while the Constitutional status of marriage will remain unchanged.

The synopsis is set out in a guide that will be sent to two million households across the State at the end of this month. The commission is also planning an extensive advertising campaign to present voters with neutral information on the proposals.

Launching its campaign in Dublin, commission chairman Mr Justice Kevin Cross urged people to register to vote before the May 5th deadline. “The most urgent thing for people to deal with now is to check that they are on the electoral register,” he said. “At every election and every referendum, there are many thousands of people who are entitled to vote but can’t vote because they’re not registered.”

The High Court judge said people could find out if they were correctly registered on checktheregister.ie or by inspecting the register at local authority offices, post offices, Garda stations and public libraries.

Mr Justice Cross said it was not the commission’s role to put arguments for or against the referendum proposals, but he urged people to listen to the public debate and to refer to the commission’s material for “independent, factual information” on the proposals.

Asked about the effects on parental rights of a Yes vote in the same-sex marriage referendum, the judge said the situation would be “no different from the present situation in relation to children and parental rights”. He said the Government had recently passed legislation dealing with adoption and other family issues, and that law would remain irrespective of the outcome in the referendum.

On the vote on the minimum age for eligibility in presidential elections, the commission’s guide says the effect of approval by the people would be that the eligibility age would be reduced from 35 to 21. It says the other constitutional provisions in relation to the office of President, including the process for nominating a person to be a candidate for the office, would not change.

On May 22nd, voters will be given two bilingual ballot papers: a green one with the question on the age for presidential candidates and a white one with the question on same-sex marriage.

Both ballot papers refer to the Bill providing for each amendment to the Constitution. Asked whether the questions could be presented more simply, Mr Justice Cross said the design of the ballot paper was not in the commission’s remit but that he did not think it was likely there would be any confusion. “The issues in these referendums are, we think, from a legal point of view, very straightforward. In one sense, they do what they say on the tin,” he said.

The commission’s other members are the Clerk Assistant of the Dáil, Peter Finnegan; the Clerk of the Seanad, Deirdre Lane; Ombudsman Peter Tyndall and Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy.

The commission’s guide is available at refcom.ie