Well, have voted in Ireland’s marriage equality referendum, and we’ll have to wait till tomorrow for the count. All commentators are confident it will be passed.
The necessity by the way for gay marriage to be put to a referendum, arises due to marriage being enshrined in the Irish constitution; and a constitutional amendment requires a referendum. The amendment voted on today is to add a clause to article 41. I would actually have preferred a different approach. Had I my way, the question on the ballot paper would have been to delete article 41 in its entirety, as it's already a hodge podge. See for yourself.
It includes the state recognising “that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.” And it contains the grounds for divorce (living apart for at least four years and no reasonable prospect of a reconciliation). Which apart from being too restrictive, just doesn't belong in a constitution, it belongs in legislation.
I should mention the historical background to these divorce clauses being in article 41. The present constitution began life in 1937 and when first adopted included an absolute ban on divorce. To allow divorce at all, therefore, needed a constitutional amendment; and this was done by the Fifteenth Amendment in 1995. That was the second divorce referendum. The first was in 1986 where the proposal to allow divorce was defeated by a whopping margin of almost 2:1. The 1937 constitution was a strongly Catholic document, and in 1986 the Catholic Church still held sway to keep it that way. Even in 1995, divorce only got through by a whisker.
Two referendums today
There was another referendum today. It was to reduce the minimum age for candidates for the presidency from 35 to 21. Well, OK, I did vote for this, but heavens above, there are more pressing constitutional amendments that ought to have priority, and were considered by a constitutional convention last year. Blasphemy for one. The constitution provides that “the publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law”, though strangely blasphemy wasn’t actually legislated against until 2009. No that’s not a typo, 2009.
Apparently there was a high turnout today in urban centres which indicates success for the Yes side, as the No’s are likely to reside in rural Ireland where the Catholic Church still has some residual influence. Here's this week’s Mitchelstown mass leaflet.
In this locality, mass attendance by people of my age is high, and many massgoers will, I'm fairly sure, take their lead from the Catholic bishops. Younger generations, less so. Generally, young voters appear to have been hugely energised by the Yes campaign, especially in urban areas.
I forgot to mention what would follow if my plan were to be followed to scrap article 41 entirely. I would then enact legislation which would delete “marriage” from all laws. The state would register civil partnerships only, and all existing marriages would be reclassified as civil partnerships. Henceforth marriage would be a cultural event that you could do in church or other venue of your choice. If you believe that marriage is a union of man and woman, open to the procreation of children, and a gift from God, then there would be no apparent conflict between that belief and the law of the land.