The legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in Ireland has now passed through all stages in the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) paving the way for a high number of Christmas weddings.
The Marriage Bill 2015 was passed in the Seanad (Irish Senate) to a round of applause on Thursday afternoon, giving effect to the historic “Yes” vote in last May’s same-sex marriage referendum.
The Bill will now be signed by Irish President Michael D. Higgins next week on his return from a US visit before a commencement order from Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Joan Burton will formally put an end to the legislation process. The final stages could take as little as two weeks.
After months of campaigning, the Bill took a short time to pass through Leinster House, first entering the Dáil (parliament) just four weeks ago and only reaching the Seanad on Tuesday.
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald applauded that there would be a wave of Christmas weddings as the Bill was passed through the Seanad.
“Today we can be proud that our country has taken it’s place amongst the nations of the Earth as a champion of marriage equality and of the rights of all our people.”
“Today is a joyous day,’’ she added, stating that "on May 22, the green jersey turned rainbow".
The former Labour Party now independent Senator Averil Power was a prominent figure on the “Yes” side during the campaign. She believed: “The influence of the marriage equality result on May 23 and the ‘Yes’ vote goes well beyond the LGBT community.
“I think it was a remarkable day for Ireland as a whole and a victory for tolerance and inclusion and for happiness and everything that is good.”
Independent Senator David Norris has been a gay and civil rights activist in Ireland since the 1970s and is hailed as one of the key figures in Ireland’s momentous and historic decision to allow same-sex marriage in May 2015.
The 71-year-old Senator took a legal case against the Irish government in the early 1990s in a bid to decriminalize homosexuality, a case which went all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. His legal battle eventually led to the decriminalization of homosexuality by the Fianna Fáil-Labour government in 1993.
Earlier this week, the gregarious scholar courted with controversy for suggesting that gay cousins should be allowed to marry following the referendum. On the bill’s passing, however, he simply expressed his delight at the support for marriage equality this year following his own 40-year struggle for human rights.
“I would like to say that this is the overwhelming decision of the Irish community and for that I’m extremely grateful,” he said.
“The gay community could not possibly have done this on their own. We were put in this position by the decency and good nature and respect for human rights of the overwhelming majority of the Irish people.”
“Gay marriage is gone,” he commented on Tuesday. “There’s no longer gay marriage and that’s a great thing. There’s just marriage. It’s all marriage from now on and I think that is great.”
Independent Senator Ronan Mullen also spoke as the Bill was passed saying that those who opposed the referendum still loved those on the “Yes” side, despite expressing concern about the legislation’s implications for religious marriage.
“But we have to be true to ourselves,’’ he stated, as well as suggesting that it should not have taken a national referendum for Irish people to show a united front against homophobia.
After the Bill was passed, Labour party Senator Susan O'Keeffe said: “Let us hold our heads high and roll on the weddings.’’