The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of The Republic of Ireland, Enda Kenny, has announced that a referendum on marriage equality will be held in the spring of 2015.
The predominantly Roman Catholic country legalized same-sex civil partnerships in January 2011, but has yet to vote on marriage equality.
According to the Journal, Kenny said in response to a question about the issue, “The referendum will be in spring of next year. We haven’t named a date yet. There are a number of other legal issues that need to be dealt with, including elements of adoption which are necessary.”
“We’d like to have that cleared before we put the marriage equality referendum,” Kenny continued. “It will be in the spring of next year and the government will decide a date in due course.”
Politician Alan Shatter, while serving as the Minister for Justice and Equality, explained previously that both the Fine Gael and Labour Parties want the vote to be in regards to “one very simple thing.” As such, they are also working on legislation about related issues, such as family matters, in order to decide on them separately.
Speaking at a Marriage Equality conference, Shatter explicitly said that the “one simple thing” is “whether people of same sex should be allowed to celebrate a ceremony that’s called marriage as opposed to a ceremony called civil partnership. There is no other issue that will arise.”
He continued, “So as we head into 2015, there will be one issue and one issue only: Do you believe individuals should be allowed to enter same-sex marriages or should we discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation and deny that to them?”
Kenny has promised to campaign in favor of marriage equality, and he isn’t likely to find much resistance—according to a poll taken in November 2013, 76 percent of voters said they would support such a referendum.
Of course, not everyone is in favor of expanding the definition of marriage. Catholic Bishop Denis Nulty said in a statement, “the Church regards the family based on marriage between a woman and a man as the single most important institution in any society… [we]will seek with others to reaffirm the rational basis for holding that marriage should be reserved for the unique and complimentary relationship between a woman and a man from which the generation and upbringing of children is uniquely possible.”
Other groups are applauding the news. A chairperson for the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, Kieran Rose, told the Independent, “The referendum will be the final step in the remarkable 20 year journey from gay law reform to full Constitutional equality for lesbian and gay people in Ireland.”