It is now the time to move to Civil Marriage

Submitted by GLEN - Gay and Lesbian Equality Network

Original article:

Summer is a great time for lesbians and gay men (whatever the weather). It's the time for our great annual celebration, the Gay Pride Parade. On Saturday, they were 30,000 on the parade from all sectors of society, with more than 100,000 onlookers.

For the first time, delegations from Fine Gael and Fianna Fail marched, officially joining those from Labour and Sinn Fein.

The progress of the Pride Parade, from a relatively small if exuberant gathering to being the second biggest parade in the city after the St. Patrick's Day Parade, reflects the great transformation in the status of gay people in Ireland.

We have moved from being one of the most conservative countries in the world to being one of the most progressive, in terms of the legal rights of loesbians and gay men.

The most recent legal leap is the powerful Civil Partnership Act, which was passed unanimously by the Dail in June 2010.

Civil Partnerships have had a transformative effect on our social landscape. In the nine months from April 2011 to the end of the year, more than 500 couples went to their registry offices in all counties and, before the registrar, solemnly affirmed their love and commitment to one another.

These new civil partnership celebrations are extraordinary in their parallel to traditional wedding celebrations. One might have thought that this new status of civil partnership and the consequent celebration rituals would take some time to be established and widely accepted.

However, almost overnight and as if by some ‘hidden hand', both the gay couples and their families and friends have adopted the traditional wedding rituals of the hotel reception, speeches with laughter and some teary moments, children running around, dinner, then thedancing . . . and the ‘Fields of Athenry’!

Every time lesbian and gay couples publicly celebrate their civil partnerships, they bring the day of civil marriages much, much closer.

I suggest that the people of Ireland in this open-hearted welcoming of civil partnerships, have spoken, and are saying we are entitled to marry.

An all-party consensus in favour of civil marriage for same-sex couples is growing. Fine Gael, at its latest ard fheis, voted in favour of prioritising civilmarriage in the Constitutional Convention.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was on a similar theme at the weekend. But it would be wonderful if Taoiseach Enda Kenny was able to reflect this support and say that, building on the success of civil partnerships, it is now the time to move to civil marriage.

THE fact that our Constitution and its provisions relating to marriage have been interpreted by the courts to date to exclude same-sex couples from this fundamental human right is deeply regrettable.

While this barrier is in force, lesbians and gay men will not have full equality under our Constitution. Civil partnership provides almost all of the responsibilities and rights of civil marriage, with the singular exception of parenting, where reform is urgently needed.

To move to marriage now is not a massive legislative leap; it is an incremental step building on the success of our civil partnership legislation.

Kieran Rose is chairman of GLEN (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network)

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