Irish same-sex marriage debate

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Campaigning will draw to a close on Thursday ahead of Ireland’s historic referendum on same-sex marriage.

Irish voters will decide on Friday whether or not gay and lesbian unions should be recognised by the constitution – a question that has led to weeks of emotive debate.

Celebrities, sports stars, journalists and bishops have all had their say. BBC News looks back at some of their most memorable quotes.

Colin Farrell, actor

The Dublin-born film star added his support to the Yes campaign, saying he was “sad and disappointed” that his brother had to leave Ireland to get married, because he was gay.

“I can’t see how a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, declaring love and declaring faithfulness until death do us part… I can’t see how that could be a threat,” he told Irish broadcaster RTE.

US talk show host Ellen DeGeneres shared his comments with her 43 million Twitter followers.

Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin

Writing in the Irish Times, Dr Diarmuid Martin, said he did not wish to “stuff his religious views down other people’s throats”, but he believed marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“Marriage is not simply about a wedding ceremony or about two people being in love with each other,” he said.

“I ask you to reflect on why humans exist as male and female? It is not an accident or a social construct… I believe that this complementarity belongs to the fundamental definition of marriage.”

Stephen Fry, comedian

The presenter recorded a message in the Irish language (Gaeilge), asking people to vote in favour of same-sex marriage. He married his fiance Elliot Spencer earlier this year.

“I want the same happiness I have found to be afforded to those in Ireland too. Give people a chance to marry and have their love celebrated.”

Ger Brennan, Irish footballer

The Dublin Gaelic Games star is one of the few Irish sportsmen to speak out against same-sex marriage. He said he had concerns about gay married couples raising children.

“It would have been easier to keep my mouth shut and not rock the boat. I know I’m not homophobic; my gay friends and family can attest to that.

“I am voting ‘No’ because I don’t want our constitution to deny that it is a good thing for a child to have a mother and a father.”

Ursula Halligan, broadcaster

The political journalist received widespread praise for coming out ahead of the referendum. The 54-year-old spoke of her pain at growing up in a country where homosexuality was illegal until 1993.

“In the privacy of my head, I had become a roaring, self-loathing homophobe, resigned to going to my grave with my shameful secret.

“And I might well have done that if the referendum hadn’t come along.”

Keith Mills, campaigner

Keith Mills, an openly gay man, has said he is against same-sex marriage, arguing that homosexual and lesbian couples are already well served by the Irish Civil Partnership Act.

“It upsets me when those promoting same-sex marriage try to portray civil partnerships as a ‘second class marriage’,” he said.

“That is most certainly not how I and most people that I know view them.”

Mary McAleese, former Irish President

The ex-head of state, who is a devout Catholic, has spoken about her son Justin’s battle for acceptance as a gay man in Ireland.

She said he endured “torture” when he discovered what the Church taught about homosexuality.

“A Yes vote costs the rest of us nothing. A No vote costs our gay children everything,” she added.

Ben Conroy, writer

Mr Conroy is a member of Catholic advocacy group the Iona Institute and has been openly critical of the Yes campaign.

He told the BBC: “It is fuelled by a climate that says ‘No’ people… are haters, bigots or homophobes and I think that in itself is a reason to be really sceptical about a Yes movement that says it is all about tolerance.”

Breda O’Brien, columnist

Mr Conroy’s mother, Breda O’Brien, has written columns in the Irish Times, vehemently arguing against changing the constitution.

“There is no human right to same-sex marriage. Countries can decide to vote it in, but it has been established by the European Court of Human Rights that there is no human right to it.”

Martina Navratilova, former Wimbledon champion

The nine-time Wimbledon champion has championed gay rights for decades.

Over the past few weeks she has retweeted numerous comments and articles about the referendum debate in Ireland. On Monday she added her own voice to the Yes campaign, calling the vote “Ireland’s equality moment”.

“Ireland will be the first country in (sic) the right side of history,” she added
BBC © 2015

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