DUBLIN — The Irish government announced Thursday that it has set May 2015 as the date for a public referendum on same-sex marriage.
During a cabinet meeting, the Ministers accepted the recommendation of Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that they should follow the advice of the Constitutional Referendum and put the issue of same-sex marriage to the Irish voters.
Thursday’s announcement follows a vote by the Irish Constitutional Convention last April to recommend a change in the Constitution to allow same-sex couples full civil marriage, and not just a civil partnership.
The Church of Ireland’s pro-LGBT group, Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI), welcomed the referendum and challenged all the churches not to oppose it.
“The government’s intention to hold a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples will facilitate discussion and challenge the ignorance, especially in the churches, of the positive experiences of same-sex relationships,” said Dr. Richard O’Leary, chairman of CAI.
The Catholic church has not announced whether it intends to campaign against the measure. The church hierarchy’s temporal power in Ireland has been dramatically diluted during the last decade, in large part to allegations of pedophilia among clergy members.
Grainne Healy, chairman of Marriage Equality, said she was confident that the people of Ireland overwhelmingly support the extension of civil marriage rights to lesbian and gay people.
LGBTQ equality rights activists also noted that delaying the referendum until 2015 gives the Irish government time to settle related legislation such as the Children and Family Bill, which establishes the rights of gay and lesbian parents.
A recent poll found that 75 percent of the Irish public would vote in favor of marriage equality.