Marriage equality

On Monday Kerry County Council became the 14th local authority, since July 2012, in Ireland (including Northern Ireland) to pass a motion in favour of marriage equality.

With the latest Millward Brown Lansdowne poll showing that 75% of people would vote yes in a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples it’s encouraging to see our local politicians back equality on this issue. Even if it is only a symbolic gesture.

Yes, there has been vocal opposition, by some councillors, to these motions but they have been shown time and time again to be within the minority.

The Programme for Government included a commitment to establish a Constitutional Convention to look at a wide range of topics including the provision of marriage for same sex couples.

The convention held its first full meeting in January and marriage equality is due to be discussed at the next session on April 13-14th.

Marriage equality has been making international headlines, in recent weeks, with key votes in France, Britain and the US state of Illinois.

The French National Assembly approved, by 249-97 votes, the redefinition of marriage as being between two people and not just between a man and a woman. This is the most important article of their bill to introduce marriage equality.

In Britain, the House of Commons passed a bill allowing for marriage equality, in England and Wales, by 400-175 votes. The next step is sending the bill to the House of Lords. But with the voting margin, of 225, in the Commons being so large it’s unlikely to fail at this stage.

Valentine’s Day saw the Illinois State Senate vote in favour of marriage for same-sex couples. They did so by 34-21 votes. A vote in the State House now awaits the bill.

Yes, by comparrision, Ireland seems to be dragging its heels by awaiting the outcome of the convention before moving to the legislative stage. But the convention is a step in that direction. And an important one.

That this is happening in the 20th anniversary year of the decriminalisation of homosexuality is not an insignificant fact. How many people thought we’d reach even this discussion stage in such a relatively short space of time?

Of course, the big test is seeing how the government will deal with the convention’s recommendations. And if that means a referendum then ensuring we actually get people out to vote. The dismal turnout of 33.5% for the Childrens Rights referendum shows that this is no easy task.

I don’t know about you but I, for one, am looking forward to the challenge.