Tuesday 27 September 2016

One month on and the wedding planning is well under way

Published 27/06/2015 | 02:30

Thousands celebrating the Yes vote in the same-sex marriage referendum at Dublin Castle
Thousands celebrating the Yes vote in the same-sex marriage referendum at Dublin Castle

It's been a month since the Marriage Equality referendum and 61.1pc of people are still riding high from the euphoria and the feel-good factor that swept the country.

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But it seems there are still some who can't accept the decision.

Only a couple of hours after Brian Sheehan, director of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), had finished explaining how things had been in the past month, the office received a threat in the form of a suspicious package.

"In 20 years we've never had anything like this before," said a staff member at GLEN.

But it is what it is - a blip, an anomaly, out of step with the rest of the country's feelings on the evolution of our society, which are overwhelmingly positive and accepting of the right to equality for all.

The first gay weddings are being planned for the autumn, when the legislation is expected to be brought in. Ireland is even being marketed abroad as a gay wedding destination.

Overnight, for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, their day-to-day lives have simply changed for the better. They have a "spring in their step", says Mr Sheehan.

"People voted in an extraordinary turnout to express their wish for an Ireland more loving, more caring, generous, fair and inclusive and I think people still have a spring in their step about that."

Cathy Madden, a former government press secretary who was strategic communications adviser to the Yes Equality campaign and is now with PSG Communications, believes the good engendered by the result will remain.

"What the campaign captured was the feeling that the Irish people had an opportunity to make the lives of their family, neighbours and friends happier - and they took it," she says.

And to that end, legislation is on the way - eventually.

A legal source explains that it has already been drafted and is ready to go. But legal challenges lodged in the High Court have proved a setback to the timeline.

In the meantime, wedding bells are poised to ring out and planning is already feverishly under way.

Limerick-based wedding planner Sharon McMeel says there are lots of same-sex couples just waiting for a definite date to proceed.

"I've had a lot of inquiries from couples looking for a bit of guidance," she says.

"There's a lot of people planning for weddings next summer. They want to give themselves plenty of time and they don't mind waiting a little longer - because they've been waiting a long, long time for this already."

Sharon planned the Civil Partnership between Calvin Hayes and Stevie O'Driscoll last August 22.

The couple, who live in Adare, Co Limerick, are now planning on 'upgrading' their union to a marriage.

"We spent a lot of money on it first time round - trying to top that would be very hard," admits Calvin.

The referendum was not entirely positive for all gay men and women, though. It also had the unintentional but inevitable result of hurt being caused after voters pinned their colours to the mast.

One young gay Dubliner reveals that many of his LGBT friends are suffering from the fallout.

"The people whose parents voted No are feeling it really badly," he says.

"It's not as easy to ignore as it was," he adds. "Nobody knows how to mend the fences."

The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that gay marriage should be allowed across the entire United States, settling once and for all one of America's most divisive social questions.

The landmark ruling from America's highest court means that all states, even in the deeply conservative South, must allow same-sex couples to marry.

The decision was met with cheers and elation from gay rights activists gathered on the marble steps of the Supreme Court but despair from conservative groups across the US.

It represents an extraordinary turning point in US history just 11 years after Massachusetts became the first state to allow gay couples to wed.

In that time Barack Obama became the first US president to back gay marriage and public opinion shifted rapidly in favour of allowing gays and lesbians to wed.

A Gallup poll found last month that while 60pc of Americans supported same-sex marriage around 37pc remained opposed.

That divide was reflected on the court bench where the four liberal justices were joined by Anthony Kennedy, a centrist judge, to pass the decision on a 5-4 vote. All four of the court's conservatives voted against.

"Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions," Justice Kennedy wrote. "They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

Antonin Scalia, one the court's most conservative justices, said the court's decision was a "threat to American democracy".

The ruling brings to an end a strange legal limbo where same-sex marriage was allowed in 37 of America's 50 states but remained banned in the others. The marriage of a gay couple in one state would also not be recognised in another where gay marriage was prohibited.

Yesterday's ruling evens the law across the entire country and is expected to be met with a race by same-sex couples to town halls and courts in states where gay marriage was once prohibited.

"The highest court in the land said today that gays and lesbian couples are equal and should be treated equally," said one man on the steps of the Supreme Court. "America has lived up to her promise of liberty and justice for all."

The ruling from Washington was met with celebrations across the US.

Conservative groups reacted with fury to the court's decision, with the Family Research Council (FRC) saying "Americans will not stop standing for transcendent truth".

"No court can overturn natural law. Nature and Nature's God, hailed by the signers of our Declaration of Independence as the very source of law, cannot be usurped by the edict of a court, even the United States Supreme Court," said FRC president Tony Perkins.

John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, said he was "disappointed that the Supreme Court disregarded the democratically-enacted will of millions of Americans by forcing states to redefine the institution of marriage".

During hearings in April the justices heard arguments over whether gay marriage should be legalised as a constitutional right all across America, forcing the 13 US states that currently ban same-sex marriages to perform the unions.

The long-awaited ruling came two years after the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down a law defining marriage as between only a man and a woman when it came to applying for federal benefits, paving the way for this much wider ruling on gay marriage.

During the hearings, the justices were conscious that their decision would overturn a view of marriage that had existed since time began.

"This definition has been with us for millennia, and I think it's very difficult for this court to say 'we know better'," Justice Kennedy said at the time.

But set against those concerns, Justice Kennedy challenged the notion that heterosexual marriages were superior because they included the higher purpose of procreation, and that same-sex couples were not entitled to the same dignity as traditional married couples. (© Daily Telegraph)

Irish Independent

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