Wednesday 21 August 2019

First same-sex wedding in Ireland could take place in matter of weeks

Panti Bliss celebrates with crowds at Dublin Castle following the Yes vote in the referendum
Panti Bliss celebrates with crowds at Dublin Castle following the Yes vote in the referendum

Jane O'Faherty

After almost six months of waiting for the LGBT community, Ireland's first same-sex wedding could take place in just a few weeks.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is expected to sign the commencement order for the Marriage Bill 2015 in the coming days, which will officially allow for same-sex marriage.

Marian Purcell, of Gay Weddings Ireland, has specialised in planning same-sex ceremonies since 2012 and expects Ireland's first gay weddings to take place from November 16.

Originally set up as an online suppliers' directory for civil partnerships, Ms Purcell's website has since evolved into Ireland's only ceremony-planning service specifically for gay couples.

Ms Purcell said the increase in calls to the business was "unbelievable" since the referendum was passed, but added that she always expected gay marriage to become a reality in Ireland.

"We knew gay marriage was going to come to Ireland," she said. "People were saying, 'You should call yourselves Civil Partnership Ireland' but we said, 'No, marriage is coming'."

Since establishing the website with her partner, Ms Purcell has had clients from the US, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and England, as well as Irish couples.

"Every ceremony we've planned has been very traditional," she added. "But I have had a dog as a ring bearer and one couple had a hawk as a ring bearer."

While most venues and suppliers have been welcoming, Ms Purcell said she was aware of couples being turned away by some providers.

"One client said she had never had a homophobic experience in her life and then she had one when planning her wedding," Ms Purcell said. "You still come across that attitude."

Sarah McDevitt and her partner Geraldine Stone (32) will be among the first same-sex couples to tie the knot in Ireland this year.

The couple got engaged in March and hope for either a wedding or civil partnership this December. Sarah and Geraldine had chosen Kilronan Castle in Roscommon as a venue, before the referendum result showed that the county was the only one that voted No.

"After the referendum, we were getting massive slagging about Roscommon," said Sarah (34). "But we are delighted to be getting married in Roscommon."

"It's for the 48pc of people there who voted Yes," the Sligo native added.

Sarah was initially anxious that some wedding service providers may say no to gay couples, but has had very positive experiences so far.

"I said up front to everyone we dealt with that this was a same-sex marriage," she said. "Every single person said, 'Even better'."

Sandra Irwin-Gowran, director of policy and education at Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen), said there was "huge interest" in who the first couple to say 'I do' would be, but added that the LGBT community was now anxious to see the bill come into effect.

She said "the overriding feeling is relief", adding that she was aware of many civil partners who now wished to wed in another ceremony, despite the extra cost.

"People want others to know that they really value what people did when they voted Yes in the referendum," she said.

Irish Independent

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