Yes vote could have EU impact, claims research group

Anthony Coughlan says referendum could give rise to inequality for heterosexuals

Success for the Yes side in the same-sex marriage referendum could lead to same-sex marriage becoming a human right throughout all 28 EU states, it has been claimed.

Director of the National Platform EU Research and Information and retired associate professor of social policy at Trinity College Dublin, Anthony Coughlan also said it would give rise to a new inequality where heterosexuals were concerned.

Mr Coughlan said that a Yes vote could have a wider EU impact as a result of the Lisbon Treaty Protocol. He said that the protocol was agreed for Ireland in 2009, "to induce Irish people to ratify the Lisbon Treaty" after they rejected it in 2008.

The protocol meant that EU human rights law could not lay down human rights standards for all 28 EU states, “if they conflict with the Irish Constitutional provisions specified in the protocol”.


Those provisions refer to the right to life, the protection of the family and education rights.

“The Irish Protocol as it stands is therefore an insurmountable legal obstacle to the imposition of same-sex marriage on 500 million EU citizens as a matter of European law decided by the EU Courts of Justice,” he said.

However, putting same-sex marriage in the Irish Constitution would “remove the principal legal obstacles to same-sex marriage being laid down in due time as a supernational human right for all 28 EU member states under the Lisbon Treaty”.

Mr Coughlan claimed that this was why “interests in the EU itself and same-sex advocates nationally and internationally are seeking a change by referendum in Ireland, thereby bringing about a permanent constitutional change here and removing this Irish Lisbon Protocol as an obstacle to supernational EU law” .

‘New social inequality’

Mr Coughlan also claimed that “redefining marriage and the family in the Irish Constitution, as the Government proposes, would allow homosexuals to have both civil partnership and marriage, while heterosexuals would have marriage only - giving rise to a new social inequality”.

He said that the “most effective way of doing justice to LGBT people would be to put civil partnership into the Irish Constitution, parallel to the status of marriage as it has always been understood”.

He claimed that, at present, “civil partnership is a matter of statute law only”.

Building on civil partnership would be “a creative social policy initiative which would do justice to the one to two per cent of the population who are homosexual, without redefining marriage for the 98-99 per cent who are not, with many unconsidered and unintended consequences, such as the legal effect mentioned on Ireland’s Lisbon Treaty Protocol”.

Mr Coughlan said: “No country in the world has put same-sex marriage into its written Constitution, because of the permanent, irreversible and unforeseen consequences of such a step. On social policy grounds, we should not do that either on Friday week, 22nd May.”

The National Platform EU Research and Information is research and information body on EU affairs.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times