Ahead of Ireland’s marriage equality referendum this May, Catholic group We Are Church (Ireland) has publicized its strong support for a Yes vote that will allow same-sex marriage in Ireland. The group’s core leadership is in unanimous support of the referendum.
A recent statement by the Irish government has revealed that if it passes, the following section will be added to the Constitution: "Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”
We Are Church is an organization “committed to the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church on the basis of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the theological spirit developed from it.” They have liberal objectives, including the full inclusion of women in the church, a positive attitude toward sexuality, and a fully inclusive environment.
A We Are Church spokesperson said, “social justice requires that loving, committed relationships between two consenting adults should be treated equally by the Irish State, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.”
“Although civil partnership in Ireland was a significant step forward in relationship recognition for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, it did not provide them with the same responsibilities, obligations and status that marriage gives,” he continued.
“There are important inequalities still remaining. These range from issues relating to the family home, finance, legal procedures and parent and child.”
Adoption and surrogacy are not included in the upcoming marriage equality referendum and will be dealt with in separate legislation, however.
“The proposed referendum will not redefine marriage but rather refine it to make it more inclusive and so enhance the meaning of marriage,” said We are Church member Brendan Butler.
The Catholic group also strongly supports the idea that marriage is a constantly evolving institution; in Ireland’s past, marriage included practices like arranged marriage, dowry payment, and the inferior status of women.
According to the Irish Times, Butler said that in history, marriage had been primarily about the protection of property and wealth rather than free loving assent between two people.
He also noted that the Constitution as it stands does not define marriage as between a man and a woman, but rather the Irish Courts have been interpreting it as such.
Article 41.3.1 states, “The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded, and to protect it against attack.”
“It was the 2004 Civil Registration Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. But Irish Courts have consistently interpreted Article 41.3.1 as inferring that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Butler said.
Changing Attitude Ireland, an affiliate of the Church of Ireland released a statement in support of the potential wording of the referendum. CAI Chair Richard O’Leary said,
“Just as civil marriage may be contracted by two persons without distinction as to their race or religion, it should also be available to couples without distinction as to their sex.
“People of faith should exercise their freedom of conscience to vote yes to equal civil marriage in this referendum as was done to permit civil divorce in the referendum twenty years ago."
CAI is a network of people working for the full affirmation of gay and lesbian people within the churches in Ireland.
Catholic groups against the referendum are focusing their arguments on “the family” and the “interests of the children.” There has also been some focus on Ireland’s middle-aged rural men who are likely to vote No.
“We make our position clear not just from a faith point of view but also because we believe it is good for children, that it’s good for family and it’s good for society to preserve the uniqueness of marriage as we have traditionally understood it,” said Archbishop Eamon Martin said on Newstalk.
A No campaign group will be formed to produce anti-amendment posters and disseminate literature, but discussions are still taking place on its make-up. One possibility is that the organization Mothers and Fathers Matter will become the focal point for the No side.