The Law Society of Ireland has today made a public statement in support of the 22 May Marriage Referendum.
Ken Murphy, the Director General of the Law Society, said, “At its April meeting the Council of the Law Society considered a position paper on the ‘Marriage Equality Referendum’ from the Society’s Human Rights Committee. The Council decided, by 22 votes to 9, that this was an issue of equality and human rights on which the Society should take a public position. Given that the decision to support a ‘yes’ position was so overwhelming in the discussions at Council, no further vote was needed.”
“The current referendum clearly concerns the vindication of fundamental personal rights under the Constitution – that is, the right to equality of same-sex couples in the context of legal marriage and their fundamental civil right to marry. There is no legal justification for denying equality to same-sex couples in relation to the civil institution of marriage.”
“The Law Society is taking a public stance on the referendum because marriage equality is an issue of fundamental human rights. Solicitors are important stakeholders in the legal system and the Law Society has a duty to show leadership on this issue.”
“Solicitors operate in a legal system based on two principles - first, that all citizens should be equal before the law and, second, the rights of all citizens ought to be protected.”
“As solicitors, we depend on the law,” said Mr Murphy. “We have an ethical obligation to ensure that wherever possible, the nation’s laws support and protect the fundamental rights of all citizens.”
“Currently, same-sex couples can only enter civil partnerships and while these unions share many features with civil marriage, there are in fact many statutory differences between them.”
“Some of those differences include the fact that only marriage is specially protected by the Constitution. Also, under the current system, only one civil partner may have a legal relationship with a child. Civil partners and the children they raise are not legally regarded as a family. In addition, it is easier to dissolve a civil partnership than a civil marriage (i.e., divorce).”
“In basic legal terms, civil marriage and civil partnership are not the same and do not give an equal level of rights and protections to opposite-sex and same-sex couples.”
“To deny same-sex couples the option of being married, is to say that these couples must be treated differently simply because of their sexuality.”
“Society changes and eventually the law catches up. With the passage of the divorce referendum in 1995, the definition of legal marriage changed. It’s time for the definition to change again and extend the right to all regardless of sexual orientation.”
View our position paper on the Marriage Equality Referendum.