Gay men attend a gay marriage and civil rights protest in Dublin

Almost 800 gay rights activists and their supporters gathered at a central Dublin rally on Sunday and called for same-sex marriage legislation, and not just the right to civil partnerships as is proposed in a bill due before the Dail (Parliament) in the next few weeks.

Brandishing red cards, the demonstrators vented their anger and frustration at what they claimed was continual refusal by the government to give gay people equal rights. Under Irish law, same-sex couples have no formal civil or legal rights.

A civil partnership bill due before the Dail soon will allow lesbian and gay couples to register with the state and avail of privileges in areas such as pensions, inheritance and tax.

But it will not carry all the same rights and protections as civil marriage, and civil partners will not be protected by the Constitution, according to Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Noise which organized the rally.

Candidates in the local government and EU elections in June will be pressed to declare their position on the issue of gay marriages.

Grainne Healy, co-chairperson of Marriage Equality, said she believed that politicians were nervous and out of sync with the public because research by her organization revealed that eight out of 10 Irish people believe gay people should have access to civil marriage.

She urged those gathered to ask their local politician to push for the issue of gay marriage.   She said her organization will be flagging local and European candidates who are in favor of gay marriage.

Eloise McInerney, of LGBT Noise said, “The civil partnership bill is an inferior piece of legislation which does not recognize families or give people the right to adopt their partner’s children.

 “We don’t want crumbs from the master’s table. We want the whole cake. We want the wedding cake.”

Rory O’Neill, organizer of the Alternative Miss Ireland annual contest, acknowledged all the hard work done to bring the bill to this stage. But he also said equality was not a half measure.

He drew prolonged applause when he added, “Either our relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships or they are not. Our state asks of us all the responsibilities of citizenship. In return I expect the commensurate rights.”

O’Neill said, “Sometimes we gays are so happy we got this far that we don’t want to rock the boat. People are telling us that we should be happy sitting halfway up the bus.

“I am not happy sitting halfway up the bus. I want to sit at the front of the bus and if I feel like it I want to drive the bus.”