Debate on gay marriage needs to be tolerant
THE Cabinet's decision to hold a referendum on gay marriage can justifiably be called historic. It is just 20 years since homosexuality was decriminalised and three years since civil-partnership legislation was passed. But the referendum in 2015 will be seen as the final step in deciding how the State treats people who are gay or lesbian.
It is also notable that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has declared his support for the referendum and has promised to campaign strongly in favour of it. Until now, he had refused to put his views on gay marriage on record. It means that he and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore – who has described gay marriage as the civil-rights issue of our generation – will be singing off the same hymn sheet.
The gay-marriage referendum will also mark another episode in the Government's fraught relationship with the Catholic Church. It has already defied the Catholic Church by criticising its response to abuse inquiries, closing down the Irish embassy in the Vatican and passing abortion legislation.