On July 1st, Ireland’s Civil Partnership Bill completed its passage through the Dail (Lower House) without a vote.
Under the bill civil registrars could face a fine of €2,000 (U.S. $2500) and up to 6 months in prison for conscientiously refusing to carry out a ceremony for a homosexual couple. It allows for similar penalties for anyone refusing for reasons of conscience to rent meeting facilities for homosexual partnership ceremonies.
The bill would create a near-equivalent situation to marriage for same-sex partners in terms of property, social welfare, succession, maintenance, pensions and taxes.
The Catholic bishops in a statement in March said that these provisions are a violation of the Irish constitution’s protections of religious freedom and the family based on marriage. It creates “a new and dangerous expansion of State power. Conscientious Catholics, Protestants, Muslims or Jews are effectively being told by the Irish State that they need not apply for a position as a Civil Registrar,” the bishops’ statement said.
But politicians and civil liberties groups both shunned the warning and said the Catholic Church has no business making any statements on public policy.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern told the Irish Times in a June 12 interview that religious beliefs “cloud” the judgment of politicians. Green party leader John Gormley said the Church should exclusively look after the “spiritual needs of its flock,” adding that he “thought we had left the era of Church interference behind.”
Mark Kelly, director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said, “The ICCL seriously doubts that the Irish Catholic bishops retain sufficient moral authority to pontificate on the Civil Partnership Bill.”
Homosexualist activists complained that the bill does not go far enough, saying it needs a clause allowing same-sex partners with custody of children to be legally recognized as “joint parents.”
Critics have said that the bill is contrary to the intention of the Irish constitution, which specifically protects marriage as the foundation of the family. Article 41 states, “The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of marriage, on which the Family is founded.” The constitution also recognizes “the family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.”
“The state, therefore, guarantees to protect the family in its constitution and authority, as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the nation and the state.”
The National Men’s Council of Ireland and the Family Rights and Responsibilities Institute of Ireland have said that their representations to politicians on the bill were ignored.
In a letter to President Mary McAleese, Roger Eldridge, chairman of the National Men’s Council of Ireland, said, “We believe this legislation will act contrary to the common good of the Irish people, will undermine the family founded on marriage, which is ‘indispensable to the welfare of the nation and the state’, and is therefore repugnant to the constitution.”
The homosexualist lobby has made huge strides very quickly in Ireland, where ten years ago “gay rights” were a non-issue in politics. Despite lack of interest in the issue among the general public, since 2001 the Irish media began to give increasingly favorable attention to the movement. By the 2007 general election, all parties had included support for homosexual civil unions, with Sinn Féin and the Green Party supporting full civil “marriage.”
With more sympathetic media exposure, the homosexualist cause has also started receiving greater public support. In 2008 a poll showed that 84 percent of Irish people supported civil marriage or civil partnerships for homosexuals, with 58 percent supporting gay “marriage” in registry offices.