BY BEN FINCH
6,000 people snaked through Dublin’s streets for the fourth annual March for Marriage. The infectious snap of samba drums ricocheted up and down Kildare Street where protestors chanted: “What do we want? Equal rights! When do we want it? Now!” as they stopped outside the gates of Leinster House, the home of the Dáil and Seanad (the upper and lower houses of parliament).
Signs such as: “This faggot wants to get married,” and: “In fairness Enda it’s not like I want to marry you,” were held high as the march began making its way to the Department of Justice on the south side of St. Stephen’s Green.
The speeches at the Department were optimistic but not over-confident: “Many people think that marriage equality is inevitable,” said Anna McCarthy of LGBT Noise. “Many think we will have it soon. 73 per cent of the public is in favour, but the Constitutional Convention won’t report back for one and a half years. They can decide to support it or not but they can’t decide on a referendum. This could be decided tomorrow, it’s nowhere in the constitution that marriage is between a man and a woman. We are here and we demand equality.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Equality said on Monday: “In relation to making marriage available to same-sex couples, successive Attorneys-General have advised that it would be necessary to amend the constitution. The forthcoming constitutional convention will consider a range of possible constitutional reforms to put to the people. Among the issues for consideration, the convention will consider changes which would allow for legislation for same-sex marriage, if passed in a referendum.”
In 2011 the campaigning group Marriage Equality released a report called ‘Missing Pieces’ which found 169 differences between civil partnership and civil marriage legislation. Some of the most serious of these include a lack of family home protections for civil partners whose partner has left them, the omission of equivalent provisions that apply to certain housing grants, and the fact there is no recourse to judicial separation for civil partners.
It’s the final mile for campaigners, but the public support is there. As the Director of Marriage Equality, Moninne Griffith, said on Tuesday: “The main barrier to equal marriage would be if it’s off the political agenda. We’ve got to make sure that it’s a political priority. It’s got to get through the Constitutional Convention, it may require legislation post-referendum. But a huge majority feel the time has come to make Ireland a fairer, more inclusive place. With the long term economic issues that may not be fixed for a number of years equal marriage could be this government’s positive legacy.”