On May 22 a referendum on same-sex Marriage will be held in Ireland. Some weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Niki, member of the Amnesty Society at University Collage Cork (UCC). We spoke about the role of students as an important part for a successful referendum and grown acceptance of the LGBTI* community in Ireland.
As part of the UCC Amnesty Society you are promoting the referendum. What are you doing exactly and how is the response?
The wording of the actual referendum has been approved nationally by Amnesty which means we can put a campaign in support of it. The official campaign has been launched just last week, but in preparation of the referendum we held a “register rally” at the UCC and nation wide.
(In Ireland you are allowed to vote at the age of 18, but to vote at any elections you have to register until the 25th of November of the previous year. Not registered Students are not allowed to vote on the referendum.)
It was very successful and we and the Irish Student Union managed over 3000 students at the UCC and more than 20´000 all over Ireland to vote. Students have a most likely to sway the Yes vote, because actually most students are in favor of marriage equality. We held a “pre-Vote” and more than 90 per cent of the UCC students said, that they are in favor.
What is the referendum about? What is the status now and what will be changed after a positive vote?
LGBTI* couples can form a civil union which has the same rights rights in term of a marriage, but is it not a marriage. So after a positive referendum, they are not longer just Civil-Union-Couples but husbands and wives and an equal part of the society. (MORE…)
What is your expectation?
I think it will pass and I hope it will pass. But now it is the most crucial time. There has to be a lot of ground work to put in by supporters to make sure that the voters go out and vote. There is always the fear that somebody who is in support just forget about it and think it will pass anyway. It is also in May 22nd which is in the middle of student examinations, so a lot of students are busy, or not at their voting district. It could also happen, that they just think it will pass, so I don’t have to do it anymore. Because I feel, that the No-side will actually go out and vote. But they will sway it out, so they have to get out and vote. Everyone who is against it will vote against it! So it really has to be stressed that people have to vote for this. In general I think, that Ireland is in favor of it, the country has a positive response to it.
Who is supporting the referendum and who is against it?
The church and some smaller groups are definitely against it.
(Last December a leaflet entitled “The Meaning of Marriage” was published by the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference. The aim of the leaflet is to highlight “the family based on marriage between a woman and a man as the single most important institution in any society.”)
But if we look at the political parties, they are either impartial or in favor of it. Our Taoiseach (Prime Minister/Fine Gael/conservative) has also announced that he will support the Yes vote. But in society at a whole, especially the media, there has been more a positive response than a negative one.
At the end, can you give us an impression of the LGTBI* community in Ireland? What about acceptance, but also difficulties to face?
The support and the acceptance of the LGBTI* community has been grown a lot over the last 10-20 years. Nowadays, it is very good, although we can not call it a paradise. Nevertheless, recently now that the referendum comes out, we hear stories about some homophobic motivated attacks. For example, there are some fake-accounts on Tinder or similar and a person got attacked when they met.
Anyway, all the best!