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Referendum: Ireland votes to legalise same-sex marriage

NEWS | Tess Holgate
Monday 25 May 2015

On Friday 22 May the Irish people voted in an historic referendum to change the constitution to allow same-sex marriage.

Sixty-two per cent of the population voted yes, making Ireland the nineteenth country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage, but the first to do so after a popular vote.

After the vote, the Irish Times reported Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin as saying, “I think really that the church needs to do a reality check, a reality check right across the board … We tend to think in black and white but most of us live in the area of grey, and if the church has a harsh teaching, it seems to be condemning those who are not in line with it. But all of us live in the grey area. All of us fail. All of us are intolerant. All of us make mistakes. All of us sin and all of us pick ourselves up again with the help of that institution which should be there to do that.”

Gary Millar, Principal of Queensland Theological College and former pastor in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland said he didn’t think anyone in Ireland was surprised by this decision.

For many years now, says Millar, “many Irish Catholics have paid little attention to the official line from the Vatican on ethical issues. Most Catholic people just didn’t have the biblical background, and weren’t in a position to formulate an ethical position on something like same sex marriage.

“Back in the 1960s and 70s Catholicism in Ireland was quite oppressive in a number of ways,” says Millar. Many people were disaffected with the Catholic Church.

“When the child abuse scandals broke in the 1990s, the wall of disaffection was ready to come down and many people who had stopped listening to the voice of Catholicism years earlier thinking it was anti-modern spoke out because all of a sudden speaking out became respectable.”

“[For them] It’s about basic fairness and equality, and the only contrary voices are heard as being a throw back to the Catholic hierarchy,” says Millar.

Lyle Shelton, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby expressed disappointment at Ireland’s decision: “Australia should not pass a law which forces millions of Australians to pretend that a same-sex couple with children is the same thing as a mother and father with children”.

The Australian Marriage Forum (AMF) released this statement today, lamenting, “Ireland has written a social suicide note and we grieve for her. But we will not follow her.

“Here in Australia, we will resist the dementia that is afflicting the decadent West. If we are the last country standing, we will still not abolish a child’s birthright to the love of her mum or her dad just to gratify the demands of homosexual adults.

“In Australia we will not be that stupid. There are ways of being kind to our gay neighbours that do not involve violating the foundational relationship of human society: mother, father, child,” says the AMF. 

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has already dismissed the idea of a referendum on same-sex marriage in Australia, saying that questions of marriage remain the responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament. However the change in Ireland has renewed pressure for the PM to allow a conscience vote on the issue.

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