Ireland's deputy prime minister has announced that the country's long-anticipated voter referendum on marriage equality will be held in May of next year, according to The Guardian newspaper.
Irish Labor Party leader Joan Burton, who holds the post of deputy prime minister, or "Tanaiste" in local parlance, announced on Tuesday that the coalition cabinet in Dublin has agreed that May will see a popular vote held to determine whether same-sex couples will be allowed to legally marry in Ireland.
"The fact that this referendum is now to take place is a mark of the progress that has taken place in this country in recent years and decades, and indicates the extent to which attitudes to lesbian and gay people have changed," Burton said during a public announcement at the Government Buildings complex in Dublin.
Catholic bishops recently restated their opposition to the question of same-sex marriage in Ireland, a country that has a population which still identifies as 85 percent Roman Catholic.
But opposition isn't universal in Irish faith communities.
"In the forthcoming referendum on marriage Christians will be campaigning on both sides," Richard O'Leary, chairman of pro-LGBT Christian group Changing Attitude Ireland, told the newspaper. "Although Catholic bishops have expressed opposition, Christians can still use their freedom of conscience to vote yes to civil marriage equality, like they did 20 years ago in favor of the availability of civil divorce."
On the other end of the religious spectrum, Catholic bishop Liam MacDaid said in a written statement that, "To put any other view of unions on the same level as Christian marriage would be disservice to society rather than a service."
In recent years, polls have shown the Irish people evolving toward ever-growing margins of support for equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Still, advocates for equality and LGBT activists are not taking any chances.
"As a gay man and member of Fine Gael, I am immensely proud that this referendum has been brought forward by this Fine Gael-Labor Government," member of Parliament Jerry Buttimer told The Guardian. "However, the hard work is only starting now."
Fine Gael, which translates roughly to "Irish Race," is the name of the other political party in the coalition government, headed by Prime Minister Enda Kenny.
"We must be fully committed to this campaign and leave no stone unturned in explaining the importance of a yes vote," I truly believe the referendum will be passed and that Ireland will be lauded across the world as a leader in social justice and equality."
Winning Equality Via Viral Video?
A recent video ad depicting young, vibrant Irish men and women from all walks of life expressing their support for Ireland's LGBT community by voicing full-throated, almost nationalistic support for marriage equality, went viral. A decidedly more comedic, but no less viral video, aimed at promoting votes in favor of marriage equality in Ireland, titled "Armagaydon," was released in August.
Polls Look Positive
According to The Guardian, the most recent Irish Times poll found that 71 percent of voters in the Republic of Ireland support extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. Back in August, a poll by the Sunday Times found that 86 percent of Irish people approved of same-sex relationships.