What’s the last thing you think of when a gay couple wed? The imminent need for an abortion referral, right?

Wrong. Just ask David Quinn, the Irish journalist and founder of the conservative Catholic Iona Institute.  

In a videotaped discussion Quinn had with supporters that was published this weekend, he frankly admits that if progressives win the same sex marriage referendum on May 22, they may be emboldened to mount an abortion referendum by 2017.

Quinn’s discussion suggests that giving progressives a black eye on marriage equality now would halt their momentum and make the government reluctant to pick a fight with religious conservatives later on. 

If the conflation of same sex marriage and abortion seems counter intuitive, you’re not thinking like a religious conservative. When Quinn looks at gay people marrying he sees it as problematic, but he also see it as a sign of worse horrors to come, wondering aloud on camera this week if an abortion referendum will be far behind? 

Behind the same sex marriage referendum, many religious conservatives fear, another referendum is actually occurring: a referendum of the status of the Catholic Church in Ireland in 2015.

“I put it down to a reaction to the previous dominance of the Catholic Church in Ireland,” Quinn told The Boston Globe this week, speaking of the strong Yes vote in the polls. “It used to be a very rock-hard Catholic consensus, which completely dominated politics. And now we have a reaction against that…”

Gay couples will be bemused to discover that they’re small fry, statistically insignificant collateral in the wider war, which is the battle against secular humanism and the liberal democracy that Ireland is trying to become.

You really have to hand it to Quinn and his supporters, they play the long game. 

In recent weeks Irish TV’s have been filled with touching ads about equality and tolerance, but at Iona their appeals have always fallen on deaf ears. Quinn may disapprove of gay unions (his organization previously warned against civil unions) but apparently his real target is the pro-choice supporters who vowed never again after the shocking death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway. 

Irish commentators have noticed that in the ongoing debate over same sex marriage Iona leaders keep referring to unrelated issues like abortion and one-parent families. That’s because they're beginning to join the dots. In Quinn's own words this weekend the Iona group's larger struggle has become clear: their larger project is to push back the advance of secularism in all of its permutations. 

If gays win conservatives will move on to the next battlefront –  and if gays lose conservatives will simply hold the line. 

Quinn frankly admits the Irish public is trending in favor of a Yes vote, but he is not discouraged: “The Yes side has a big lead… a very substantial lead,” he told NewsTalk. “I don’t know how solid the lead is. They have all the political parties on their side. Every second celebrity seems to be on their side. They will spend a lot more money, most of academia is on their side. You would have to make them favorites to win, there’s no question about that.”

Meanwhile Ireland bishops and cardinals are for the most part keeping their mouths uncharacteristically shut on this pressing social issue. The only reason they’re not speaking up, observers say, is that they know that their badly damaged standing can only help a Yes vote. 

But when polls have wandered as far south as this one has, that may not hold. It’s actually a measure of how worried they are that they’ve kept this silent this long.