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Ireland passes marriage equality referendum

On 22 May 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to vote for equal marriage in a referendum. The proposal was supported by 62% of voters, or 1.2 million people. The Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton spoke following the result on the significance of the vote for Ireland.

Crowd Reaction as result is announced as 62% in favour

Speech by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D.
on the Marriage Equality Referendum
Dublin Castle
22nd May, 2015

Today Ireland made history.  

The first country in the world to vote for equal marriage.  I welcome that and thank all those who voted yesterday.  In the privacy of the ballot box they made a public statement.

With today's Yes vote we have disclosed who we are - a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people.

Yes to inclusion.
Yes to generosity.
Yes to love, and
Yes to equal marriage.

I know that for tens of thousands of couples and their families, the past 24 hours were almost a vigil at the end of a long journey.  Would their fragile and deeply personal hopes be realised?

Would a majority of people, in this our Republic, stand with them and stand up for them so that they can live in our shelter and no longer in our shadow?

That having come out to us we could now come out for them - and do it with a single word, a solitary syllable - Yes - marked with an X.

Today they have their answer.  The people have answered the call of families and friends, of neighbours and new acquaintances.

Of Jack O’Rourke and Edel Tierney, Finian Curran and Allie Kershaw and Jerry, Leo, Pat and so many others. It was their stories and their voices that inspired the hearts and minds of the Irish people.

Our people have truly answered Ireland's Call.

The referendum was about inclusiveness and equality, about love and commitment being enshrined in the constitution. For a significant proportion who voted against the amendment it was because of genuinely held views which are to be respected.

The decision makes every citizen equal and will strengthen the institution of marriage for all existing and future marriages.  All people now have an equal future to look forward to.

So – the people went to the polls.
It passed.
The answer is YES.
Yes to their future.
Yes to their love.
Yes to their equal marriage.
That yes is heard loudly across the living world as a sound of pioneering leadership of our people and hopefully across the generations of gay men and women born as we say, before their time.

The people have spoken.

They have said yes.

Ireland – thank you.




23 MAY 2015

In Ireland, we’re known as a nation of storytellers.

And today, the people have told quite some story.

This is a magical, moving moment.

When the world’s beating heart is in Ireland.

Our people have spoken powerfully and profoundly.

Together, we’ve chosen to make progress.

We’ve chosen to create a more compassionate and egalitarian Constitution.     

We’ve said Yes to equality, and Yes to love.

As Tanaiste and Labour Party leader, I’m immensely proud of the role my party played in securing this referendum and helping to win it.

But in this profoundly uplifting campaign, we were just one part of a much wider movement.

A rainbow movement to help create a rainbow nation.

So I want to thank Yes Equality, whose life-affirming campaign inspired so many to get involved.

Just look at what you have achieved.

I want to thank every gay and lesbian person who told their story, who knocked on doors, who fought for every vote, and who carried the day.

This victory will be yours forever.

And I want to thank everybody – families and friends, neighbours and strangers, gay and straight – who came together to light a torch for hope.

That torch was carried not just from one corner of this country to another, but across the entire world.

From so many countries and by every means of travel, streams of people came home to vote.

Hate and prejudice could never have moved so many to travel so far - only love and fellowship could possibly have done that.

But as those of us on the Yes side savour this day, I want to acknowledge too the many people who voted No because they held a different view or had concerns.

The debate on both sides was conducted in a civilised and dignified way, and I want to acknowledge in particular the role of our Church leaders in facilitating this.

In a democracy, we cherish the right to disagree – and today is no different in that respect.

But Ireland is different today – it has changed – and changed for the better.

Not so long ago, to be gay in this country was to risk being criminalised.

And I want to acknowledge those many gay and lesbian citizens who are still afraid of telling their own story.

Still fearful of the prejudice and abuse, and above all the hurt that might follow.

I hope that today your fears will begin to fade, and that you can finally feel accepted – and equal – in your own country, as the votes of hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens have affirmed.

Together, the people of Ireland have struck a massive blow against discrimination as we extend the right of marriage to all our citizens.

We’ve done something incredible and proven that a compassionate, well-informed electorate can and will extend civil rights when asked in a popular ballot.

Now I hope that spirit, that torch, is carried abroad.

We’re the latest country to pass marriage equality into law – but we will certainly not be the last.

We’re still just at the beginning of a great global movement for LGBT equality.

And in many countries, persecution of gay and lesbian citizens is still a tragic reality.

So today is simply a staging post – here and elsewhere - but a profoundly important one.

In the United States and around the world, May 22 is known as Harvey Milk Day in honour of the great LGBT rights campaigner.

It was Harvey Milk who said: “Hope will never be silent.”

Today, hope in Ireland is louder than it’s ever been.

And I hope it’s heard across the world.

I want to thank the Taoiseach for wholeheartedly committing to this campaign, and all the political parties, and individual politicians, who supported it.

I also want to thank my predecessor, Eamon Gilmore, for putting marriage equality up front and centre, and without whom today would not have happened.

When I think back on this campaign, I’ll think of many things.

I’ll think of the people who made it happen, and those whose lives will be forever changed.

I’ll think of the joyous reality that when the time came, our country stood up for its people – all its people – and said Yes to equality.

But most of all, I’ll think of the children.

The children in every town, village and schoolyard who will now grow up knowing their country accepts them - whoever it is they one day grow to be, and whoever it is they one day grow to love.

Today, we have made a better Ireland for them.

And that’s the best story of all.

Go raibh maith agaibh.