Council passes marriage equality
Cork City Council has become the first local authority in the Republic of Ireland to pass a motion in support of gay marriage.
The motion was proposed by Sinn Féin councillor Mick Nugent at this week's Cork City Council meeting on Monday 9 July. The motion received unanimous approval, despite the reservations of certain councillors.
The motion supports "the same rights and entitlements to civil marriages for all citizens of Cork City regardless of race, religion or sexuality". The motion also highlights the "significant gap between Civil Marriage and Civil Partnerships". According to advocacy group Marriage Equality there are up to 160 differences between the two and further steps towards equality are therefore required.
The Cork Independent spoke with councillors on Monday about the issue and the vast majority were in favour of introducing marriage equality in Ireland.
Sinn Féin councillors were most supportive of the motion. According to Cllr Chris O'Leary, "if people are in love then they should be entitled to marry and have the same rights as heterosexual couples". Cllr Thomas Gould agreed with Cllr O'Leary's sentiments. Cllr Henry Cremin believes that the current debate is "a sign of the times" and Cllr Fiona Kerins believed that "those who disagree are living in the past".
Labour councillors were also extremely supportive of the development. According to Cllr Lorraine Kingston "it shouldn't be an issue anymore. It is depriving people of their human rights". Cllr John Kelleher maintained that "the country has progressed a lot over the years but we need to continue progressing and improving our social policy". Cllr Michael O'Connell agreed that it is long over-due.
Cllr Denis O'Flynn argued that "we are living in a democracy and everyone should be free to make their own decisions". Cllr Ger Gibbons stated that "same sex couples should be allowed to settle down like everyone else". Cllr Catherine Clancy argued that "it is important in the case of bereavement that same-sex couples have the same legal standing as a married couple". Cllr Michael Ahern did not have any strong opinion on the matter but stated that he did not have any problem with it.
Fianna Fáil councillors were generally supportive with the exception of Cllr Terry Shannon and Cllr Mary Shields. Cllr Shannon was particularly at odds with the issue stating that "gay rights and marriage are two different things".
"If it is legalised I do not agree with the union being labelled 'marriage'," said Cllr Shannon.
"Marriage is between a man and a woman. Eamon Gilmore is looking for something to hang his hat on".
Cllr Kenneth O'Flynn personally believed "that equal rights is regardless of sexuality'. Councillors Tony Fitzgerald and Seán Martin were also both in favour of the motion being passed. Cllr Tim Brosnan maintained "if we can make people happier and no-one is getting hurt then why not?"
Cllr Ted Tynan of the Worker's Party supports gay marriage and any legislation that would legalise it. Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy is also "all for equality".
There were mixed reactions amongst Fine Gael councillors.
"Next time around I'm going to marry a woman because men are too much work," joked Cllr Patricia Gosch.
"We haven't the right to tell anyone who they should or shouldn't be with."
Cllr Jim Corr also believed that "we need a more tolerant society". According to Cllr Laura McGonigle "it does not affect any third party."
Deputy Lord Mayor Emmet O'Halloran believes "people should be free to make their own decisions". He stated that he would vote "yes" for the legalisation of gay marriage in Ireland.
Lord Mayor of Cork, John Buttimer, said he is "absolutely in favour" of same sex marriage in Ireland. According to Cllr Buttimer, last night's motion is "another step in the right direction in the ongoing process of equality". The Lord Mayor also suggested that those who disagree with the motion should "learn from other social action campaigns".
There was opposition on Monday from Cllr Joe O'Callaghan, who stated his belief that "natural marriage is between a man and a woman".
"A new phrase should be invented for the 'marriage' of a same-sex couple," said Cllr O'Callaghan.
When asked why he didn’t voice his opposition in the Chamber on the motion, Cllr O’Callaghan was reluctant to expand on his previously stated position.
“There was no particular reason that I didn’t speak. The general view was that they (councillors) wanted it passed. I have my own opinion and we will have to see how the issue plays out now. We will just have to see what the Constitutional Convention brings about when they meet.”
Councillor Joe Kavanagh did not have any strong feelings either way.
The Cork Independent could not reach FG Cllr Brian Bermingham, Independent Cllr Mick Finn and Cllr Mick Barry of the Socialist Party for a comment on the issue.
Marriage Equality, Ireland's gay marriage advocacy were thrilled with the news saying, "this is a wonderful step by Cork City Council, and we'd like to thank all of the councillors for their support, and particularly Cllr Nugent for taking the initiative to raise awareness of this important issue at a local level".
Several prominent TDs have also voiced their personal support for the issue in the past week, including Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer, who urged parties not to use the issue as a "political football."
"Thankfully last week in our capital city, all our political parties had the courage and pride to walk in Dublin Pride. That is the Ireland for which we strive."
Other notable senior politicians who expressed support for the issue include Justice Minister Alan Shatter, Deputy Brian Hayes, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, who referred to marriage equality as the "civil rights issue of the generation."