In May 2015, a referendum on same-sex marriage will be held. According to the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll from December 2014, 71% of voters said they are in favour allowing same-sex marriage in Ireland whilst 17% are against it, 9% are undecided and 3% have no intention of voting in the referendum. With the undecided and non-voting sectors not factored in, the yes vote is 81% and the no vote is 9%. However, many have stated that estimates like these cannot be fully relied upon due to a consistently low turnout at referenda in the past five years such as the Children’s Rights bill and the abolition of the Seanad with less than 60% of the electorate voting on the day itself.
There have been many public statements from several groups on both sides of the referendum. The main component of the Pro-Marriage Equality side is the “Yes Equality” campaign which is a collaboration between the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), Marriage Equality, and The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL). The main goal of the Yes Equality campaign is “to encourage people to register to vote and have their voices heard.” because they believe that “civil marriage should be open to all citizens.” The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have been working alongside the Yes Equality campaign to encourage university students who are not on the electorate to register to vote on the Student Elector Registration Database. This initiative has resulted in approximately 20,200 new student voters on electorates across the country with UCC having the highest number of new registrations at around 3,500.
The main voice in the Anti-Marriage equality side is the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference. On the 3rd December 2014, a leaflet entitled The Meaning of Marriage which was published by the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference was launched in Maynooth during their winter general meeting. The aim of the leaflet is to highlight, as the organisation states, “the family based on marriage between a woman and a man as the single most important institution in any society.” Throughout the leaflet, there is an emphasis on producing children as the main reason and function of marriage, which by nature same sex couples cannot do according to the leaflet “through the sexual act which expresses married”. Other examples of the anti-marriage equality sentiments towards this year’s referendum includes a publication first spotted in Dublin city with the headline “Should Children be exposed to Sounds of Sodomy?”, which has become viral on social media sites such as Twitter. This flyer encourages people to contact and lobby to their local TDs to prevent not only the same-sex marriage referendum to pass but to also prevent adoption legislation for same-sex couple from passing into law.
Despite a majority and all political parties in favour of same-sex marriage in Ireland, many believe that the public will either vote against the referendum or not turn up as a means to punish Fine Gael and Labour. As well as that, there is a concern that people will take the majority vote for granted and not bother to vote. It is predicted that the day of the referendum will be either take place on a Thursday or a Friday. The Union of Students in Ireland have also requested to hold the referendum in late April instead of May. The USI claim that most college students will be too busy with exams in May to vote in their respective constituencies while many students live and attend college outside of their constituency making them unable to vote. Whether or not this year’s marriage equality referendum will pass by a landslide majority or small margin, only time will tell what the outcome will be.