Marriage referendum


Sir, – Empirical studies comparing children of same-sex and heterosexual couples are more extensive and consistent in their findings than the letters of Ryan Connolly and Neil Bray (February 5th) would imply. All of the available evidence from these studies shows that children of same-sex and heterosexual couples are similar with regard to their gender identity, gender role behaviour, sexual orientation, mental health, and psychological and social adjustment.

These studies include comparisons between children reared by lesbian couples and those reared by heterosexual couples, between children with stepmothers and stepfathers; follow-up studies of adults raised by lesbian mothers have also been published; recent studies have also been undertaken with gay men who are parents. The studies draw on methodologies developed in the field of psychology over decades, including quantitative and qualitative measures of gender identity, sexual orientation, psychological adjustment, social adjustment, parental styles and quality of parent-child relationship. They have been conducted in different cultures at different time periods using small samples as well as population studies. They have been published and reviewed in international peer-reviewed journals and by professional bodies such as the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Paediatrics’ Committee, the Australian Psychological Society and the Psychological Society of Ireland.

The studies are in agreement with other studies of child development in showing that the quality of relationship, whether with one parent or with two, and whether with gay or straight parents, is the most important factor in child development. – Yours, etc,


School of Psychology,

University College Dublin,

Belfield, Dublin 4.

Sir, – The proposal to alter radically the definition of marriage, by way of an amendment to the Constitution, is both flawed and unnecessary.

The idea that the meaning of marriage needs to be fundamentally changed in order to give equality to couples of the same gender demeans our very understanding of the wholeness and integrity of human nature and a long-recognised principle of social foundation.

It is nonetheless entirely appropriate that contractual unions or civil partnerships of the same gender should be not only recognised, but also given full constitutional protection, and surely this could be achieved by way of an alternative amendment. For that to happen, one could only hope that our legislators and their constitutional experts would reconsider the current proposal and come up with a revised definition and wording which would preserve the distinction between marriage and civil partnerships of the same sex, and one that would be just and fair to all.

If they don’t, it is very likely that vast numbers of the electorate will reluctantly vote No. – Yours, etc,


Kilternan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The upcoming referendum is a missed opportunity by the Government to address the injustice of the period of time that married couples have to wait before applying for a divorce. Currently a married couple can legally separate when their marriage breaks down but must wait for four years after separation before they can apply for a divorce.

The constitutional requirement for married couples to be living apart for four years before being able to apply for a divorce has led to a very unfair situation whereby such couples have to go through a legal separation only to have to go through it again four years later in order to obtain a divorce.

The breakdown of a marriage is a very stressful, life-changing event and the current four-year wait before being able to seek a divorce only serves to make it more stressful for the couple and can have a negative impact on the couple’s parenting of any children of the marriage.

It is interesting to contrast this to the position of same-sex couples in civil partnerships. At present such couples only have to wait two years before they can apply to have their civil partnership dissolved. The shorter time period, in my view, reflected changed attitudes in society by the time civil partnership was brought in.

If the referendum is passed then (somewhat ironically) same sex-couples who marry will also be subject to this four-year wait.

It is time for this to be addressed in a referendum so that separating spouses can finalise matters in one step rather than two. It is a shame that the Government did not use this opportunity to allow marriage breakdown to also catch up with attitude changes in society. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 2.