2010-09-16: Call for civil marriage legislation

CARL O’BRIEN, Chief Reporter 

Gay rights campaigners have called on the Government to legislate for civil marriage for same-sex couples following today’s Irish Times /Behaviour & Attitudes poll which shows a large majority of people in support of such a move.

The poll found 67 per cent of people believe gay couples should be allowed to marry, while a further 60 per cent do not believe that civil partnerships will undermine the institution of marriage.

Moninne Griffith, director of Marriage Equality, said the findings show the Irish public are “keenly aware that the current exclusion of lesbian and gay couples from civil marriage is deeply unfair and doesn’t make any sense in today’s Ireland.”

She also said the finding that 91 per cent of people would not think less of a person if they were lesbian or gay was highly significant.

“Put simply, being gay or lesbian isn’t such a big taboo, and neither is the subject of gay and lesbian couples getting married. The Irish people are clearly ready for it, so the question must be asked, why do the Irish Government persist in denying the human right to marry?”

The poll on “sex sin and society” also indicates that Irish people have adopted a much more liberal attitude towards personal relationships and sexual behaviour.

A majority (57 per cent) believe cohabitation before marriage results in more stable unions, while even more (79 per cent) do not think that sex before marriage is immoral.

However, the Iona Institute – which promotes marriage and religion in society – said the public’s view that cohabitation leads to more stable marriages was not reflected in studies on the issue.

It quoted latest research which it said indicates that couples who live together before they marry are a third more likely to divorce than those who do not live together first.

“In no society has increased cohabitation been associated with lower divorce and separation, and Ireland is no different. Cohabitation and marriage breakdown have both increased together rapidly,” the Institute said in a statement.

The institute’s director David Quinn said: “The fact that a majority of people believe something that is actually the opposite of the truth is deeply worrying. If people believe that living together first will lead to more stable marriages, then cohabitation is only going to increase and so will later marriage breakdown as cohabitation is associated with higher levels of divorce.”

Mr Quinn accepted that the poll findings show Irish people are more liberal in their attitudes towards sex and relationships.

But he said this was associated with “growing family breakdown” and increasing numbers of children being raised without the benefit of a married mother and father.

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