Senior Irish Leader Backs Marriage Equality Push

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com July 02 2012 6:56 AM ET

Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland Eamon Gilmore said that he believes the country’s law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry, making him the most senior member of the government to give his support to the marriage equality campaign.

Pink News reports on the comments the Labour Party leader and coalition government junior partner made during the past weekend’s Dublin Pride celebration.  

“I believe in gay marriage,” he said. “The right of gay couples to marry is, quite simply, the civil rights issue of this generation, and, in my opinion, it’s time has come.”

“As leader of Labour, a party for whom the politics of personal freedom is so central, I acknowledge that when it comes to promoting understanding and respect, progress has been made in recent years,” he said. “However, there are some outstanding matters, and if we as a party are serious about building a new progressive society, these are matters that we will have to resolve.”

A poll by Red C earlier this year found that 73% of respondents supported allowing same-sex marriage. Gilmore, whose second most senior position in government is known as the Tánaiste, invoked the weight of popular opinion in his remarks.

“I believe that in certain key areas, our laws are out of step with public opinion,” he said. “I don’t believe for example, that it should ever be the role of the State to pass judgment on whom a person falls in love with, or whom they want to spend their life with.”

Read the full statement from the Tánaiste here.

Since last year, Irish law has allowed civil partnerships for same-sex couples. Marriage equality will be discussed this year by a constitutional convention, but Gilmore did not comment on the fate of the proposal with much specificity.

“Gay people should have the same rights as anybody else to marry,” he said, according to the Irish Times. “I hope that it’s one of the outcomes from the convention.”

Moninne Griffith, director of Marriage Equality, a campaign working for civil marriage equality in Ireland, released a statement that welcomed the remarks from Gilmore.

"As the most senior member of Government to declare marriage equality an important issue, the Tánaiste's full public support marks an historic point in our campaign for equality,” she said in part. “But we have a lot of work ahead of us. The Government will soon be launching its Constitutional Convention, to look at, amongst other issues, the provision of same-sex marriage.

"We look forward to having the full support of the Tánaiste as we work with the Constitutional Convention to protect same sex couples and families, and to ensure that they are treated equally under the law by enshrining marriage equality in the Irish Constitution,” she said.