The Irish same sex marriage referendum is set for May 22, and the issue has really begun to heat up.

Opponents of the right to marriage believe they are manning a rearguard action not just on gay marriage, but on many other issues, such as abortion, which they say will come into play if the yes vote wins the day.

Foes are also focusing on the children of gay marriages, stating they would not grow up in a normal household.

What constitutes normal anymore in a land where divorce and single mothers abound is not explained, but the move to frighten older and rural voters is clear.

It could well succeed. While polls show the yes side well ahead, referendums which do not involve party preferences are notoriously hard to call.

Other referendums such as the abolition of the Irish Senate which seemed a clear-cut 'Yes' changed dramatically as polling day approached and eventually was defeated.

So nobody has sounded the victory march just yet. But what seems to be going for the 'Yes' side is the sheer hypocrisy of the 'No' proponents.

The alarming tendency of the 'No' side was evident last weekend. Catholic conservative Breda O’Brien, a member of the Iona Institute and a leading commentator, said that while she herself was happily married, gays should not be allowed the same right. Worse, she added that gays who are not married should not have sex.

As the Irish Independent reported, “She believes if gays want to live a Christian way of life, like all unmarried couples, they should abstain from sex: ‘If you can live up to this very demanding thing, I think it will make you happy [to abstain]. It will be excruciatingly difficult. I think you will need huge support, huge help, lots of very strong, loving relationships.’"

Nothing like someone trumpeting their own happy marriage while seeking to deny others the same right. And if they can't get married they can’t be Christian either if they have sex!

It is such intolerance and moral superiority that probably ensures the same sex referendum will pass. The days when quasi-church spokespeople could ordain how people live their private lives is long gone.

Rory O'Neill, also known as the drag queen Panti Bliss, a leader of the same sex marriage movement, said O’Brien and others like her should “get the f*** out of my life.”

He’s absolutely right. The church and its devotees lost a huge amount of credibility on such matters because of the still recent memories of the pedophile cover-ups.

In the old days a belt of the bishop’s crozier was enough to silence even the most liberal of politicians. Now they could be belted all day but it would have nothing like the same impact.

Even Pope Francis, with his famous “who am I to judge” comment, has made it clear that he doesn't sit in judgment on gays.

Despite all the feel good it will be close run race. There are many rural voters who will resent the Dublin 4 attitude reflected in much of the media of ill-concealed derision for those who oppose same sex marriage.

There is also the complacency factor. Polls showing the 'Yes' side so far ahead may lead many to decide against voting at all.

The next few weeks will be decisive. Ironically the more the self-impressed pontificators like O’Brien speak out, the more the average voter is likely to vote 'Yes.' That may yet be the determining factor.

A mural of two female gay lovers on South Richmond street in Dublin.Photocall