Poll you need to know about the two votes today

NewsBy Eamon Dillon
Tomorrow you get to vote yes or no
Tomorrow you get to vote yes or no

THE world will be watching as Ireland goes to the polls today for a historic vote on gay marriage.

Irish voters are the only people given the chance by their government to cast a ballot on the issue.

Whether or not to give full legal status to gay marriage has proven to be a political hot potato in many countries, so there is a lot of interest in how it plays out in Ireland.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that a Yes vote would “send a big signal about ourselves” that Ireland has changed.

What is this referendum about?

People are being asked to vote Yes or No this Friday on adding a line to the Constitution which will give equal value to same sex marriages.

The wording was released last January and reads: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

It will be the 34th amendment to the Constitution since it was enacted in 1937.

Why is it happening now?

The current government promised constitutional reform when it was elected in 2011. Equality for gay marriages was listed a top priority by then Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, when he took office as Tánaiste. The Constitutional Convention, made of 99 people, came up with which bits needed to be reformed and the wording “between a man and a woman” was one of them.

What has it got to do with adopting children?

People supporting the No campaign have expressed fears that giving equal rights to gay marriages means that traditional mother-father couples may not get preference when it comes to adopting children. It is also feared it could have knock-on legal effects when it comes to the rights of parents if a marriage breaks up.

The Yes campaign say the referendum has nothing to do with adoption or having a child through a surrogate.

Who has come out in favour of a Yes vote?
The Yes campaign is streets ahead when it comes to celebrity endorsements. Colin Farrell previously argued in the Sunday World in favour of gay marriage. One Direction’s Niall Horan, singer Bressie and actor Chris O’Dowd have all come out in favour of a Yes vote. Rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll is also a supporter, as are a host of sporting stars and broadcast veteran Gay Byrne.

Not all members of the clergy are against it, with well-known campaigning nun Sister Stanislaus Kennedy in favour of the change along with Fr Peter McVerry. All the main political parties are backing Yes, along with some child support agencies like Barnardos. 

What about those who want to see a No result?

The Catholic hierarchy is firmly in the No camp, issuing a letter through the parishes urging people not to change the Constitution. Some Independent TDs, including Senator Ronan Mullen, claim many Oireachtas colleagues are silently opposed to it. 

TD Mattie McGrath is also against it, as is fellow Tipp man and county hurler Kieran Bergin. Another GAA star, Dublin’s Ger Brennan, has also come out to oppose the change, as have some lawyers and gay people who are members of Mothers and Fathers Matter.

Which side is going to win?

Early opinion polls had it as a Yes landslide, but the lead has been dropping slightly as voting day gets closer. An Irish Times poll published yesterday suggested that 58 per cent of people who intend to vote will vote Yes. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he believes it will be a close vote. 

An added factor ahead of Friday’s poll is that 40,000 people who have never voted before are now on the electoral register. Bookies are favouring a Yes vote too.

If it’s a Yes vote, when can gay couples marry?

The Government has published a new version of the Marriage Bill that will recognise the change if the Yes vote wins the day. Once a Yes vote is declared valid, a gay couple theoretically could immediately give the three month notice of their wedding and be hitched by August. If it’s a No vote nothing changes.

There’s also another referendum?
People are also being asked whether or not to reduce the minimum age for a Presidential candidate from 35 to 21. This ballot paper is the green one – the marriage referendum ballot paper is white. 

The Constitutional Convention picked out the age limit as another issue that needed to be reformed. Anyone can stand for the Dáil or take a seat in the Senate once they turn 21.