Comments: Irish people vote Yes in referendum on marriage equality

It is hard to express how absolutely wonderful I think this news is. As someone said in Dublin Castle this evening, it means that we are the same as everyone else. This was about a lot more than just marriage, but because of marriage's place in the constitution in Ireland it is a kind of touchstone for equality and acceptance.

How very different from our own dear Church of England's treatment of LGBT people and their loves, lives and marriages, where we are still a topic for agonised debate and uncertainty about what we might be "allowed" to do or receive.

I note the RC Archbishop of Dublin thinks that the Church in Ireland needs a "reality check". I have yet to see signs of any real recognition that just such a self-examination might be needed by the C of E. The repentance over homophobia was about not telling other people off sufficiently for their homophobia - there is still no significant grasp by those in power in the church of how structurally and institutionally homophobic the Church itself is. And until that happens not much will change.

But never mind. Tonight is a great night to celebrate a wonderful move forward by our great-hearted neighbours across the water. Congratulations, Ireland!!

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 12:29am BST

What a wonderful day to be the holder of an Irish passport! My British one expires next month and I think I will just let it expire and travel only on my Irish passport from now on.

Here's hoping that the C of E's HoB will echo Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's frank admission that Irish Roman Catholicism needs a 'reality check.'

Posted by Simon R at Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 7:37am BST

As readers will see from the next post up, the CofI's Archbishops haven't exactly caught the mood of celebration. Nor have they echoed Archbishop Diarmuid's reflection. In my constituency (Dublin South-East) 75% of voters voted in favour of the amendment.

Posted by Paul Barlow at Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 8:21am BST

Thank you, Simon (S.).

It is indeed wonderful news. Others note the divided response from the Catholic hierarchy and the many brave priests and nuns who were open in their support. This is bound to impact this side of the water, where some obvious members of the hierarchy are pretty liberal. Proud to be Irish (kind of).

Posted by John at Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 9:26am BST

Roman Catholic Irish Republic - the first country in the world to display an overwhelming welcome to Gay couples as lawfully married citizens! Bravo, Ireland!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 11:48am BST

I don't understand the comments. Yes it was incredibly moving and I am so thrilled at the outcome. But, Simon R. England, Wales and Scotland already have marriage equality, we're not lagging behind. Our political system did not require a referendum, but we had decisive votes in both Houses of Parliament supported by strong majorities in all opinion polls.

Regarding the church statement I'm not entirely sure what it means. Was he saying that the church needs to wake up and find new ways of teaching what it has always taught, or was he saying that it should concentrate on teaching the core truths of our faith?
The only place where the Irish Church is clearly ahead of the CoE is in allowing its bishops to speak their own minds.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 12:33pm BST


You're talking about two different Irish churches. Archbishop Diarmuid is RC (and clearly a man with a bit of intelligence). The bishops who have spoken their own minds are C of I. Indeed, there is another sense in which there are two different Irish churches, for the southern C of I people are a lot more liberal than the northern (I write as a northerner, frequently ashamed of the church of my birth).

Posted by John at Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 4:20pm BST

Heart-felt joy and congratulations to Ireland!

I look forward to the day when the same things may be said about my country, the United States. But in my almost 67 years, I have always felt that I was not a full citizen of the country I was born in. There has been progress. When I was in high-school i could be arrested for acting on my most basic and natural feelings, while all my friends were bragging about their success with girls (taken, in retrospect, with a very large helping of salt!); when I was in college and getting my first job during the Viet Nam era, I could not serve in the military. During my maturity I could not marry the man I loved and when he died, I still had no rights in the disposal of his body and estate. Now most of that has changed, especially in the state of Washington and other more open-minded states, and the right to the same marriage as all my heterosexual friends is in the hands of the Supreme Court.

But in many states there are still no protections for LGBT people in housing and employment, in spite of being a three-time Olympian with years of coaching to my credit, I still cannot serve in any capacity with the Boy Scouts, there are areas of the country where my Human Rights Campaign bumper sticker could endanger me, and even the letters pages of this paper display the sort of illiterate, bigoted, religion-based anti-gay sewer minds that would be shunned if they wrote about race or religion (to be fair, these are generally answered very well by more intelligent and tolerant letter-writers),and of course hate groups such as NOM of the American Family Association still bleat about how my equality undermines their family (without ever really explaining how).

With all this in mind, I congratulate Ireland, where equality has triumphed, where religious exceptions have been made where needed, but where the majority have spoken and said that ll Irish are equal. It must be wonderful to wake up to that, and I imagine that the homophobic voices who are always with us, will now be thoroughly despised, just as they ought to be, by society in General. Ireland has shown courage, integrity, love, and generous tolerance.

I envy the Irish, and wonder if I will live long enough to see such an embrace of diversity and equality in this country.

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 6:58pm BST

Surely, @Erika Baker, the point is that, despite it getting there first, England, Wales and Scotland brought in equal marriage through parliamentary process. In Ireland, this was not a decision taken by the national legislature and the political elite, it was decided by overwhelming popular vote. As the Taoiseach Enda Kenny said, this result has shown the world what Ireland is: open, equal, welcoming, joyful. Could this be said of the C of E - or British Society in general?

Posted by Simon R at Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 10:01pm BST

I'm sure a popular referendum in Britain would come out in favour of gay marriage (especially if backed by such a brilliant campaign as Ireland's Yes supporters staged). But it is nice that for once the people's views were actually registered even if one is uneasy about making rights contingent on votes.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Monday, 25 May 2015 at 2:31am BST

"In Ireland, this was not a decision taken by the national legislature and the political elite, it was decided by overwhelming popular vote."

Quite honestly, who cares? Was the UK Parliament in 2014 acting undemocratically, or was it not representative of the will of the voters?

This is nothing more than concern trolling-its like American conservatives upset that same sex marriage has come through mostly through the courts, not through a popular vote or the legislature. If the South relied on popular will to overturn segregation and Jim Crow...well, you see my point.

Posted by Amanda Clark at Monday, 25 May 2015 at 7:57pm BST

I think Archbishop Martin in real context is asking the legitimate question what has happened to Catholic education. The fact is there are two generations of Catholics who have not heard the full catholic message and have been served a Catholic lite message... excluding a reverence for the magisterium as the voice of our Lord.

Posted by robert ian williams at Monday, 25 May 2015 at 10:37pm BST

" excluding a reverence for the magisterium as the voice of our Lord." - Robert Ian Williams -

Yes, indeed! Especially as the Anglican Churches around the world have no such intervening 'magisterium'.

The reverence in the Churches of Ireland, both Anglican and Roman Catholic, needs to be more focused on the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, than to the charisma of any episcopal hierarchy. This is why the voice of the people of Ireland has been heard to reflect the 'Great Love of God (which has been) revealed in the Son' - Who, alone, has the wit and wisdom to decide what is best for God's people.

Mind you, Pope Francis is, himself, managing to overturn a few shibboleths in Roman Catholic dogmatic pronouncements that time has caught up on. So, who knows what wisdom might be seen to proceed from the 'throne of Peter' in time to come? It must, however, be seen to be consonant with the Love of Christ in the Gospel, in order to stem the flow out of the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 26 May 2015 at 1:37am BST

Simon R,
if I understood this correctly, Ireland did not choose a referendum from the goodness of politicians' hearts but because the process required a referendum.
In Britain, the same process did not require a referendum, but our lawfully elected politicians, supported by opinion polls, voted overwhelmingly in favour.

During the Government consultation process 53% of those who took part supported civil marriage. Opinion polls showed even higher approval ratings.
In the second reading in the House of Commons the bill was passed with 400 votes to 175.
After the House of Lords had supported it with a majority of 390–148, the Bill was eventually passed with 366 votes to 161.

And for you that's reason to let your British passport expire?
I seriously don't get it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 26 May 2015 at 9:24am BST

Ron....for a believing orthodox Roman Catholic the teaching magisterium in full communion with the Pope on defined matters is the living voice of Christ. However off the cuff ill considered remarks by a Pope don't count. Roman catholics do not follow their leader like that of a fundamentalist cult.

Posted by robert Ian williams at Tuesday, 26 May 2015 at 10:36am BST

Robert Ian Williams really can't have it both ways. Either Roman Catholics are taught the full catholic message and accept it unquestioningly, or 'they do not follow their leader like that if a fundamentalist cult'. It doesn't seem to have occurred to those who think the result is a 'disaster' that it's not the lack of teaching but it is the teaching itself which is being rejected.

Have they learned nothing from the debacle over contraception nearly 50 years ago? Obviously not.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Wednesday, 27 May 2015 at 9:56am BST


I understand the sentiment (though I don't share it). Think historically.

Posted by John at Wednesday, 27 May 2015 at 10:10am BST

I'm sorry @Erika Baker doesn't get it. Ireland, as a former British colony, has shown infinitely more generosity and openness than Britain in its attitude to minorities, and is infinitely more open to being part of a wider European identity. The election of a Tory majority earlier this month has shown me what Britain is - and it's a long way from Enda Kenny's description of Ireland as open, equal, welcoming and joyful.

As for the Church of England, I have yet to hear a diocesan bishop break ranks and support equal marriage in the way that the Church of Ireland's Michael Burrows and Paul Colton have.

I wonder if Erika's not getting it is rooted in an unshakeable sense that British cultural norms are the ideal, and not liking it when others disagree resoundingly?

Posted by Simon R at Wednesday, 27 May 2015 at 4:52pm BST

There a very telling letter in the Irish Times,
( linked in the last post)written by an Irish teacher ( who is a liberal)boasting that the reason for the vote has been the liberal teaching that two generations of children have received.Whether the bishops will have the courage to reform catholic education and clearly teach the Catholic basics is another matter.

Posted by robert ian williams at Wednesday, 27 May 2015 at 8:18pm BST

In defence of Erica.... Ireland has a written constitution ..we don't.

Posted by robert ian williams at Wednesday, 27 May 2015 at 8:20pm BST

So " tenets of fairness and equality of access for all " and "eradicating discrimination and promoting democratically chosen goals" should be actively opposed as part of a catholic education RIW?

Posted by Perry Butler at Thursday, 28 May 2015 at 8:54am BST

Richard Ashby is right to recall the matter of Pope Paul VI's declaration on contraception, since it is realistic to make a link between that event and the present situation where Church leaders of every shade are increasingly out of touch with their faithful.
Those of us who remember the events will recall clearly the anguish of many devout Roman Catholics as they found themselves having to make a decision between "This is the teaching, do it" and "We must follow our own consciences."
It is difficult to resist the conclusion that just as the glorious 2nd Vatican Council influenced Christians of all communions, so the controversy over contraception began a process whereby Christians across the denominations started to take responsibility for their own choices. It made the crack which has opened into a rift between Church hierarchies and Church members across all boundaries.

Posted by Barry at Thursday, 28 May 2015 at 10:46am BST

Simon R,
It's not about not liking what you say, I genuinely did not understand it.
I'm still not sure that I do.

That Ireland has shown more sympathy with European identity is true. As a German living in Britain, I very much deplore the level of Euro scepticism in this country.
But I did not think we had been talking about British politics.
I thought we had just been talking about same sex marriage and the treatment of lgbt people.

And in that respect, gay people in the UK have been able to adopt and foster on the same terms as straight people since 2003, we had Civil Partnerships since 2005 and my wife and I have been legally married since last year. England isn't lagging behind, the vote was carried by a large majority of those responsible for voting.

I don't know all that much about the Irish situation, but I seem to remember some conservatives being interviewed after the referendum and stressing that it was now time for them to campaign against gay parenting. So I assumed that fostering, adoption and access to fertility treatment may not be as advanced in Ireland as it is in England and Wales.

As for the church... yes, that's a different issue. The CoE is deplorable. We do have Alan Wilson who is rarely off the telly and radio with his pro-gay campaign, thankfully, and David Walker and Nick Holtham, and we do have some actively pro gay campaigning retired bishops too.

I don't know the Irish situation enough to judge just how different it is and just how far the CoI has progressed towards accepting same sex marriages.

Here we have the Shared Conversations, which don't look overly hopeful but we must be glad that they're at least happening at last and that there will finally be a General Synod vote at the end of this current process.
Is that roughly how far the CoI has gone down the road towards a formal process of discernment?

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 28 May 2015 at 5:13pm BST

Alan Wilson is a welcome campaigner for equality, but what more must Holtam do before it's accepted that he's no friend to LGBT people?

He's already promised to discipline gay clergy who marry, put his name to homophobic documents from the House of Bishops, and he continues to enforce 'Issues ...' when, as a diocesan, he could suspend it tomorrow. If he believes in corporate responsibility, he could resign on principle.

If friends like these are accepted, what hope is there for change?

Well done Ireland, here's hoping a similar democratic movement sweeps aside the opposition of England's unelected and unaccountable bishops. And, perhaps, the bishops themselves.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 10:01am BST

James, are you asking for a democratic movement in all of Britain to sweep away Establishment for the CoE?

I'm getting a bit confused about what we're discussing.
The Irish referendum was amazing. It had immediacy and a poignancy that no drawn-out parliamentary process can have and it really felt as if the people had spoken. There is a lot to be said for changing our whole political system to give people a real say in important issues and to breathe life into politics. It's energizing to see what happened in Ireland and it speaks much more to the soul than majority governments elected by a minority of those voting. Coming hard on the heels of our dire General Elections, the Irish result and the colourful celebrations in the sunshine were perfect and very poignant. The last time I felt so moved was when people were cheering and singing in the New Zealand parliament after their vote for marriage equality two years ago.
So I understand the emotions associated with this referendum.

But looking beyond those, Irish legislation is now catching up with where British legislation has already been enacted. And we don’t as yet know if marriage equality will also result in equal parenting.
Looking at the church, I agree that the CofE is dire. I still count Holtam as one of the goodies, but I agree that it’s not obvious and that I may be wrong. And I am delighted that Ireland has 2 Diocesans who speak their mind. I wish they could teach our supposedly liberal bishops something about courage and integrity.
And yet – is the CoI as a whole really so far ahead of the CofE? This is a genuine question; I don’t know anything about it. Is there a formal discernment process about lgbt relationships and gay married priests? Has there been a listening process? Are any changes in the Canons and practices of the church expected?

Opinion polls showed that at least as many supported marriage equality in Britain as have now voted for it in Ireland. And both our churches were officially campaigning against it and issued dire responses after the legislation was passed.

Just how different is Ireland?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 12:40pm BST

"James, are you asking for a democratic movement in all of Britain to sweep away Establishment for the CoE?"

I'm a secularist, so yes, I would agree with disestablishment, but that's by the by here: my main point was about the continued support for Holtam, despite his failure to stand up for his lesbian and gay sisters and brothers in Christ. To my mind, he's got as much credibility as a Southern Democrat who clasped his hands, talked of how he felt the pain of the Civil Rights Movement, then kept voting for segregation.

If you actively support discrimination when you've the power to end it, you're not close to being a good guy. IMO.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 29 May 2015 at 3:36pm BST

I've been an incumbent in CoI and CoE. The CoI is not ahead of the CoE, but different. There are 11 bishops, and other than Cashel and Cork they seem either to be conservative or to vote to appease the conservatives (who minister to where the money is, I guess). Roughly north/south divide. For a coruscating indictment of the state of the CoI, read this by a former Dean of Belfast:

Posted by Fr William at Monday, 1 June 2015 at 8:33pm BST

Thanks for the link Fr William. Where has that Tractarian high church ethos gone that marked so much of the C of I in generations past. I remember reading Coslett Quins book on the Prayer Book Holy Communion and thinking " here is a latter day Caroline Divine and once taking tea with + George Simms.
Parts of his analysis applies to the C of E of course. Icabod!

Posted by Perry Butler at Tuesday, 2 June 2015 at 7:15pm BST
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