LGBT+ History: Ireland’s referendum


In May 2015 voters in the Republic of Ireland were given a referendum to ask if same sex marriage should be legalised.  The results of this vote were eagerly watched by the Assembly members in Northern Ireland as it still refused to either conduct or recognise same sex marriage.

Prior to this referendum Sinn Fein had tried to push a gay marriage bill through Stormont but each time it was blocked by the Democratic Union Party, the DUP.  The DUP also rejected calls for a region wide referendum.

The referendum in the Republic was a resounding Yes after voters voted 2 to 1 in favour of accepting gay marriage which brought a lot of pressure on the North to follow suit.  The pressure was applied further by an english couple filing a legal challenge to the ban which would be looked at in the coming November.  Section 75 of the Good Friday Agreement also meant it was not possible for the UK government to intervene in this area.

In November this year Stormont had another vote and although it won the vote for the first time with 53 votes for and 52 against the motion was again vetoed by the DUP but the day was still considered historic due to the majority support received.

The legal challenge which had been brought was dismissed by the judge who ruled it was for Stormont to decide social policy and not a judge. Stormont on the other hand had a long history of being split over this subject and this subject is one of the reasons why a new power sharing government has not been formed after the assembly collapsed due to the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.

Australia had similar issues in that gay marriage was legalised in the Australian Capital Territory in 2013 but was then struck down as being inconsistent with Federal law.  Since then the government conducted a voluntary postal survey to ascertain the views of the populace on the subject.

As a result of the survey which voted 61.6% in favour the Australian Senate passed a bill “Marriage Amendment(Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017” to legalise same-sex marriage on 29th November 2017  and is now awaiting consideration by the House of Representatives.


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