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Opinion: The one thing people can do for same-sex marriage to pass in Ireland

Next year’s referendum is a once-in-a-generation moment. Let’s not blow it.

Tiernan Brady

NEXT YEAR IS going to be a pivotal year for equality in Ireland with a referendum promised on whether lesbian and gay people should have equal access to civil marriage.

The referendum is a once-in-a-generation moment. It offers us all the chance to decide what kind of country we wish to live in. A yes vote will send a powerful message that we wish to be a country where all are cherished equally. Extending civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples would make our society a better, fairer and more inclusive place for all. It will harm no one, and will take nothing from those who are already married. In fact, it will be a testament to how important marriage is in Ireland and will strengthen the core basis for marriage – the social and legal recognition and protection of the love and commitment that a couple wish to make to each other. Lesbian and gay people want to get married for the same reason as everyone else: to celebrate their love, mark their commitment to each other and protect their loved ones.

Decisions are made by the people who turn up. For such a crucial vote about our society it is vital that everyone is encouraged to have their voices heard.

With that goal in mind, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN); the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL); and Marriage Equality, are today launching Yes Equality, a joint campaign to encourage people to register to vote this November. People have until 25 November to  make sure they are registered to vote. We want to make sure that no one misses the opportunity to have their voice heard on polling day.

‘No one should feel that they cannot ask questions’

Poll after poll has shown that the majority of people in Ireland, across every region and of all ages are in favour of treating lesbian and gay couples the same as all other couples in our civil marriage laws. However, we cannot afford to be complacent. If you are not registered to vote then your voice will not be heard and you won’t have a say in this momentous decision. It’s as simple as that.

The Yes Equality campaign is also an opportunity to start to talk about why marriage matters to all of us. As people consider the issue, they will rightly have questions about what extending equal status to lesbian and gay people means, not just for lesbian and gay people but for all of society. It is right that we do all that we can to engage with people and create an atmosphere where everyone feels they can ask those questions.

Those of us who are advocating civil marriage equality want to ensure as wide a debate as possible across the country. No one should feel that they cannot ask questions as the referendum approaches. We look forward to being part of widespread conversations with people all across the country to explain why marriage matters to lesbian and gay couples and to seek their vote in the forthcoming referendum.

1,500 civil partnerships in four years

Ireland has been on a remarkable journey towards equality. It has only been 21 years since the bill which decriminalised homosexuality was passed. Since that time we have seen the introduction of anti-discrimination laws and in 2010, civil partnership was introduced which marked the first time that any legal status and protection was given to lesbian and gay relationships. Since then, over 1,500 couples have entered civil partnerships across every county in Ireland. The visibility of their love and commitment has played a huge part in helping Irish people understand that lesbian and gay couples should have the same protections and status for their relationships as others.

Civil partnership was a significant advance. However it falls short of full constitutional equality and does not confer equal status standing and dignity to committed and loving lesbian and gay couples. Only civil marriage equality can achieve this.

Agents of change

The move towards equality has been a great Irish success story. Ireland has gone from being an unwelcoming place for lesbian and gay people to being one of the more accepting and inclusive countries in the world. While we still have further to go, we are at a crucial juncture now. We can create an Ireland where a young LGBT person can grow up with the same aspirations as their peers – to be able to build a life for themselves, meet a partner, fall in love, get married. We now stand at the beginning of a referendum campaign to decide whether all of us continue on that journey towards equality.

However, to have your say in that journey you must be registered to vote. You have until 25th to register and add yourself if you’re not already there.

You can be an agent of change. Make sure you are registered to vote. Make sure your voice is heard.

Tiernan Brady is a campaigner for LGBT rights. Yes Equality is a joint campaign of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN); the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL); and Marriage Equality, to encourage people to register to vote this November, ahead of next year’s referendum on civil marriage equality. The campaign will be run in collaboration with local equality organisations across the country as well as the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), students’ unions and trade unions.

Read:Same-sex marriage is now legal in more than half the US states > 

Opinion: Gay people have been given a chilling message about discussing their lives on air > 

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