YesEquality! tweeted an announcement last Wednesday that the Snow Patrol song “Just Say Yes” would feature as the official song for the Irish Marriage Equality Campaign.

On May 22, Ireland could become the first country to legalize marriage equality through popular vote.

The band is the latest group of musicians to publicly support a Yes vote in the upcoming referendum. They tweeted “Snow Patrol are delighted to support YES EQUALITY in Ireland. JUST SAY YES – our song YOUR VOTE May 22nd.”

Campaigning has clearly intensified on both sides of the debate in the last few weeks, but particularly, in the last few days.

Snow Patrol now join the growing list of artists, politicians, organisations and celebrities to come out in support of equality.

We’ve already seen the likes of U2’s Bono, Hozier, Brian O’Driscoll, Brendan O’Carroll (Agnes Brown), Pauline McLynn (Mrs. Doyle), Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy, Ian McKellen, Colin O’Donoghue (Once Upon a Time ), Ed Sheeran, Andrew Scott (Professor Moriarty, Sherlock) and many other familiar faces speaking out in support of a YES vote.

Last week Ed Sheeran tweeted “I believe in equality if you are in Ireland and can vote please . His tweet may or may not have inspired him to surprise Brent Morin during the live West Coast broadcast of NBC’s Undateables shortly afterwards.

The Yes Equality campaign is reaching out to Irish voters through every medium imaginable, from television and radio interviews to tweets, Facebook posts and YouTube videos.

In a recent video for YesEquality! (below) Donal Óg Cusack (Cork Hurling Captain 2012, GAA All Star), Derval O’Rourke (World Championships Gold Medalist 2006, International Athlete), Aidan O’Shea (Mayo Footballer, GAA All Star) and Peter O’Mahoney (Munster Rugby Captain, Ireland International) came together to urge the people of Ireland to choose equality. So too did the hurlers (see below).

It is also expected that professional sporting organisations are planning to support the Yes campaign. It was reported in the Irish Examiner at the beginning of the month that “The Gaelic Players Association” was gearing up to support a yes vote.

Former Irish President Mary Mc Aleese and current Taoiseach Enda Kenny have also come out in support for equal marriage.

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny

In April Enda Kenny tweeted “I hope Irish people will vote yes to your love, yes to your equality and yes to your marriage. No more, a love divided… It is rare that we get the chance to vote on something so unquantifiable yet transformative as love.” 

‘It will not change definitions’ . . . it merely makes marriage available to those excluded” the Taoiseach added.

In her first public comments on the issue in mid-April, Mrs McAleese said the vote is “about Ireland’s children, gay children” and said passing the referendum would begin to deconstruct the “architecture of homophobia” in Ireland.

Former Irish President Mary McAleese joined the debate for the first time last month.

Former Irish President Mary McAleese joined the debate for the first time last month.

Several days later Mrs McAleese’s son Justin wrote a moving article for the Irish Independent detailing his experience growing up gay in Ireland. Justin (30), who is a Ryanair executive, came out to his family when he was 21.

In the Independent’s article he describes how society’s homophobic attitude at that time had affected him.

He wrote:  “When I was 16 a girl, who I didn’t know, asked me directly: “Are you gay?” The panic, the shame, the fear. How did she know? What did I say or wear that made me gay.”

Mr McAleese also told how, as a teenager, outspoken criticism of gay marriage by Ian Paisley Jnr in Northern Ireland had made him feel.

“He belittled my existence, my dreams and my ambitions”.

“I knew I was different when I was 11” but as an adult, delayed ‘coming out’ to family and friends after the DUP MP’s condemnation” he said.

#VOTEYESFOREQUALITY

ireland4Towards the end of April the Yes Equality campaign welcomed the “clear and unambiguous recommendation by children’s rights groups” that a Yes vote in the Marriage Equality Referendum was “in the interests of the children of Ireland.” Leading children’s rights advocates, Fergus Finlay (Barnardos), Tanya Ward (Children’s Rights Alliance) and Grainne Long (ISPCC), made the children’s rights case for a Yes vote at a joint press conference in London.

Earlier this month the marriage equality campaign also received an official endorsement by a diverse array of disciplines in the medical profession (Doctorsdocs for yes, Midwives, Nurses, Pharmacists & others).

The Law Society of Ireland have also released a statement declaring their support for equality. The statement reads “Marriage equality is an issue of fundamental human rights and there is no legal justification for denying equality to same-sex couples.”

Yesterdays’s news that Sister Stan is voting Yes in the Marriage Referendum was warmly welcomed by Yes Equality. Sister Stan is extremely well known and respected in the church, her position will no doubt cause friction with the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland.

Grainne Healy, spokesperson, Yes Equality said, “ Sr Stan is a much respected public figure in Ireland and her thoughtful reflection on this important issue is warming and uplifting. Sr Stan recognises that a Yes vote on May 22 underpins the journey towards full equality for lesbian and gay people.

“Sr Stan joins a line of thoughtful, committed and compassionate Catholics who have given affirmation to lesbian and gay people in Ireland and are staunchly supporting a Yes vote in the referendum on May 22. These include Fr Tony Flannery, Fr Iggy O’Donovan, Fr Brian O’Fearraigh, Fr Peter McVerry, Fr Martin Dolan and Fr Adrian Egan. These join other Catholic lay organisations such as We are Church and inter-faith groups such as Faith in Marriage Equality along with many practicing Catholics all across Ireland.

“The Irish people, the majority of whom are Catholic, have consistently shown in polls over a number of years their support for marriage equality for lesbian and gay people.

“The campaign reiterates the distinction between Church and civil marriage. A Yes in the referendum will not in any way affect religious marriage nor compel Churches to marry lesbian and gay couples, in much the same way since the introduction of divorce the Roman Catholic Church has not been compelled to marry divorced people in their religious ceremonies.”

Last week a series of five short online films premiered in the Irish Film Institute (IFI) supporting a Yes vote in the Marriage Equality Referendum.  At the premiere, a booklet was launched featuring some of the families and sports stars seen in the films. It is hoped that the booklet will be delivered to one million homes across Ireland between now and the 22nd May. Check out the booklet here or view below:

Grainne Healy, Co-Director of Yes Equality said:
“These films show the diversity of support for marriage equality across Ireland featuring families, older people, married couples and young sportsmen all saying why they want people to vote Yes. These films show that marriage equality means a great deal not just to gay and lesbian people, but to their parents, children, friends, neighbours, and teammates.

“The booklet captures the stories in the films and brings them to homes across Ireland. This is especially important for people who aren’t online. The Marriage Referendum conversation needs to be taken to all parts of Ireland and to all people. With two weeks to go, we hope the booklet, capturing real stories from real Irish people, gets people to seriously consider a Yes vote.”

You can support the booklet drop by making a donation through crowd funding website “IndieGoGo” or you can visit the Yes Equality website for more information on canvassing.

Children are being used as “weapons” by the No side.

As the Yes campaign goes full throttle on the drive for a yes vote the No campaign has also stepped up its campaign efforts.

The No side have repeatedly come under fire for their distorted views of gay parenting and the idea that somehow same sex parents are less suitable for the upbringing of children.

Last week former Minister for Justice in Ireland Alan Shatter entered the debate on the same-sex marriage referendum, claiming children are being used as “weapons” by the No side.

In an interview with The Irish Times the former Minister for Justice said it was very “unfortunate” that the opposition to this referendum have raised this issue in a way that “lacks insight and compassion”. Mr Shatter said the issue of surrogacy is irrelevant to the debate and it is being misused by the opposition to create confusion.

He said: “This is a diversion. It is very unfortunate that children are being dishonestly used as a weapon in this referendum by individuals. Many of those who are professing concern about the rights of children are the same individuals who opposed the children’s rights amendment.”

Irish actor Cillian Murphy conveyed his disappointment that children were being used in a negative way in the debate in a joined statement he released with Professor Pat Dolan of NUI Galway. Murphy is a patron of the NUIG Child and Family Research Centre and they both feel that children’s issues should be a separate issue to the marriage referendum.

According to The Irish Times, Professor Dolan stated that while they are both interested in children’s issues, they are not advocating for a vote one way or the other.

In the statement they said: “The forthcoming same-sex marriage referendum relates to adults’ human right to marry whom they chose regardless of sexual orientation,” they said in a statement. “Divisive negative issues raised in relation to children and their welfare are being used to deflect from the core question in the referendum.”

irelands marriage referendum tweetsWhat has been clear from the reporting on the referendum so far is that those calling for a No vote still don’t know enough about gay love, life and relationships.

There is no evidence to back up any of the claims being broadcast from camp No. In fact a 2013 study by Cambridge University and a 2012 study by UCLA has shown children are just as happy growing up in an environment with same sex parents. How can we then justify promoting the idea that having a male and a female parent is necessary?

Scare tactics are being employed to create a fear that marriage equality is somehow an attack on traditional families and family values.

First Families First objects to the wording of the proposed amendment on May 22nd. The group said it wants to defend the rights of existing families – married, unmarried and single parents – against what it calls the “hidden consequences” of the amendment.

According to the group, inserting a provision on same-sex marriage into Article 41 of the Constitution would “radically alter” the legal meaning of family and parenthood, which could lead to “serious wrongs” in the family court.

First Families First was launched by journalist John Waters, former MEP Kathy Sinnott and Dublin-based psychotherapist Gerry Fahey.

The right-wing Catholic think-tank “The Iona Institute” has been one of the most vocal organisations in supporting a No Vote. From their website they state that they believe “all children deserve the love of their own mother and father whenever possible” and they aim to promote “freedom of conscience and religion.”

Check out The Iona Institute’ video explaining why the organisation thinks people should vote no in the upcoming referendum.

Last year, state broadcaster, RTE blamed the country’s defamation laws for an €85,000 libel settlement it was forced to pay to an Irish Times Columnist and the Iona Institute following comments it broadcast on The Saturday Night Show.

Rory O’Neill, 45, the Mayo born gay man better known by his drag queen alter ego Pandora Panti Bliss, found himself cautioned by RTE in January last year after he noted how ‘horrible and mean about gays’ a group of well-known Irish journalists and public figures were.

Asked about changing attitudes toward the LGBT community in Ireland O’Neill has said: ‘The only place that you see it’s okay to be really horrible and mean about gays is you know on the internet in the comments and you know people who make a living writing opinion pieces for newspapers. You know there’s a couple of them that really cheese…’

Host O’Connor asked O’Neill to name the people he was talking about and O’Neill replied:ionainstitutewebsite

‘Oh well the obvious ones. You know Breda O’Brien (the Irish Times Columnist) today, oh my God you know banging on about gay priests and all. The usual suspects, the John Waters (Well known Irish journalist) and all of those people, the Iona Institute (a conservative Catholic lobby group) crowd. I mean I just…you know just… Fe-k off! Get the hell out of my life. Get out of my life…’

For his comments O’Neill received four attorneys letters from Breda O’Brien, David Quinn, Patricia Casey, and John Murray, all of the Iona Institute. Although the religiously inspired organization has a long history of taking anti-gay stances, the four members surprisingly objected to hearing their organization or themselves being described as homophobic.

Most Catholic Church leaders have strongly supported a No vote. Earlier this month Archbishop Eamon Martin reiterated the church’s opposition to same-sex unions on the basis that they were not “similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland also suggested the church was considering if it could continue to carry out the civil element of marriage if the referendum is passed.

The Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has criticised warnings from the Church that they may not carry out civil marriages if the same-sex marriage referendum is passed.

Mr Varadkar said the Catholic Church has never been forced to do anything against its will and this would not change.

“Whatever rules the Catholic Church decides to make is their own business and it is their own prerogative,” he said.

“That will remain the case after the referendum. Twenty years ago, Ireland voted to bring in divorce – to allow people to divorce and have the right to remarry and that remains the case.

“Twenty years later nobody has forced the (Catholic) church or any church to remarry people against their own doctrine. I don’t see why they couldn’t continue to offer the same arrangement to catholic couples.”

Another group calling for a No vote in the referendum “Mothers and Fathers Matter” has dismissed the findings of recent referendum opinion polls which have indicated a strong lead for the Yes campaign. A spokesman for the group, Keith Mills, warned voters that these polls are “notoriously unreliable”. Mr Mills said that he predicted the polls to “swing back to the status quo in the last month of the campaign because the No campaign had “far better arguments”.

From the “Mothers and Fathers Matter” website: “We believe that the Government’s new Children and Family Relationships Bill is unjust because it says mothers and fathers don’t matter to children. Mothers and Fathers Matter also favours retaining the present definition of marriage because this is in the best interests of children.”

The group issued a press release at the end of April to target what it called a “culture of fear in [the] referendum campaign.” The statement from the organisation reads “Across the country, people are simply afraid to say that they are voting no, for fear of the backlash. People who are voting NO are worried that a vengeful YES campaign and its supporters will cost them their jobs and their livelihoods.”

The former deputy Prime Minister of Ireland, Eamon Gilmore, is among those who are warning not to take the result for granted. Mr Gilmore told the Irish Times: “The biggest danger is complacency.

“Don’t take the outcome of this referendum for granted. Ensure it passes. Don’t leave it to other people.

There is a real hunger for this in Ireland at the moment. The gay community have really come together to show how much they want marriage equality. As the debate continues to heat up you can only imagine how hot the discussions will become nearer to the 22nd of May.