Debate in the same-sex marriage referendum has stepped up a few notches this week, buoyed on by the publication of the wording of the vote yesterday.
The move was broadly welcomed by politicians and several interests groups, however others have expressed their concerns over the potential addition of the following line to article 41 of the Constitution:
‘Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.’
Speaking on Morning Ireland, Breda O’Brien (journalist and patron of the Iona Institute) said that, if passed, the referendum will make it impossible to “say that it is preferable for a child to be adopted, where it is possible, by a man and a woman”.
She said it was “very clear” that this was the best environment in which to raise a child
O’Brien said she didn’t oppose civil partnerships for same-sex couples but drew the line at marriage as children become involved.
On Tuesday it emerged that the government planned to have enacted the Children and Family Relationships Bill – which covers several issues including gay adoption – before the marriage equality referendum in May. The legislation will provide for gay couples to jointly apply to adopt, which they can currently only do individually.
Labour TD Dominic Hannigan also appeared on the programme. He married his long-term partner, Chris, in London late last year.
Hannigan said debating marriage and adoption issues at the same time wasn’t ideal and the “timing could have been better”. However, he noted that one in four children in Ireland don’t live in the “traditional family structure” of a mother and father, for various reasons.
The Meath East TD said the government has put the rights of children “at the forefront of legislation” since it took office. He said the new law was about “making sure their futures are protected”.
When O’Brien said she didn’t have a problem with a grandmother and a mother raising a child, she was asked what the difference was between that a lesbian couple raising a child.
She said the former situation was acceptable as although the child’s father is not present, their right to having one has not been “taken away”.
“Do you think we should change the Constitution to allow grandmothers and their daughters to marry?,” she asked.
Opinion polls have shown widespread support for same-sex marriage in recent months, but Hannigan cautioned by saying: “Far too many people assume this is in the bag.”
He said a “very, very difficult campaign would have to be fought” and encouraged people not only to vote but to actively campaign.
“We cannot allow this to be lost because of complacency or apathy,” he added.