21 countries down, 175 to go: Could Ireland’s vote for same-sex marriage spark a global trend?

Greenland approved same-sex marriage on Tuesday and politicians in Italy and Australia said Ireland's approval had 'reignited' the push for equality

Lizzie Dearden
Wednesday 27 May 2015 16:32
The Irish referendum was the first on the issue of same-sex marriage anywhere in the world
The Irish referendum was the first on the issue of same-sex marriage anywhere in the world

In the four days since Ireland voted to legalise same-sex marriage, another country has already been added to the growing list of nations where couples of any gender can walk down the aisle.

Greenland’s parliament voted unanimously to adopt Danish laws allowing equal unions on Tuesday, becoming the 21st country in the world where gay people can get married.

That move was in the making long before Ireland’s referendum but the country’s historic vote on Saturday has renewed the push for equality around the world.

Ireland's equality minister said his country' 62% 'yes' vote had sent a message to the world

It reignited debate in Australia, Italy, Northern Ireland and other nations that do not yet recognise same-sex marriage.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Ireland's equality minister, said his country had "sent a message to the world" and given hope to LGBT people.

In Australia, the Labor Party is planning to introduce bill in the House of Representatives on Monday that would allow gay marriage by removing parts of the law specifying that unions must be between a man and a woman.

Bill Shorten, the leader of the opposition, said today that the time was right following the vote in Ireland.

“There is no doubt that at the weekend the Irish referendum has, I think, reignited momentum for the marriage equality debate on the other side of the world in Australia,” he said.

“If a country which is religiously conservative by cultural history can vote for marriage equality, then surely a modern Australia can endorse marriage equality in 2015.”

A similar bill was rejected by the House of Representatives three years ago by 98 votes to 42.

Tony Abbott, who trained as a Catholic priest, does not personally support same-sex marriage but hinted that he may allow a free vote today.

“It's an issue upon which there are sharply divided views inside this Parliament, inside our respective political parties and indeed, as is well known, even inside my own family,” he told Parliament, referring to his sister, who is a lesbian.

“It is important that all views be treated with respect because this is one of those subjects upon which decent people can disagree.”

Australian supporters of equal marriage are hoping that Tony Abbott would allow a free vote in Parliament

Shortly after Ireland’s result was declared, the Italian Prime Minister vowed to push through civil unions as a first step towards allowing gay marriage in the home of the Catholic Church.

“Civil unions cannot be delayed any longer,” Matteo Renzi said.

Nichi Vendola, leader of the left-wing SEL party, said Ireland had provided “a lesson in civility” and Italy needed to “wake up”.

Its proposed civil partnership law is stuck at the committee stage in the Italian Senate in Rome, where it has been bombarded with thousands of amendments mostly from right-wing opponents.

Around 81 per cent of Italians are Catholic and the approval in Ireland, where a similar proportion of the population follow the religion, has given campaigners hope.

The Italian Prime Minister said civil partnerships 'could not be delayed any longer' in his country

Ireland’s approval also turned heightened scrutiny on its northern neighbour, which is now the only nation in the British Isles where same-sex marriage is not legal.

A mass rally in support of equal marriage is due to be held in Belfast on 13 June and politicians are under mounting pressure to allow a referendum or legalise it themselves.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, whose party Sinn Fein campaigned for a Yes vote in Ireland, said: “Politicians, particularly in the north need to reflect on this progress. The world is moving on and Ireland is taking the lead.”

Several other countries are considering similar legislation, while same-sex marriage in the US is allowed in a growing number of states.

In Slovenia, Parliament approved a marriage bill in March but it has not yet received Presidential approval needed to enact it.

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