Thursday, May 28, 2015


Click any image for a larger version

Following the passing of the same sex marriage referendum the next stage will be the drawing up and implementation of the required legislation.

One of the controversial aspects of the campaign was the position of religious ministers as solemnisers of civil marriages. At present, in the Roman Catholic Church, for example, the religious ceremony has the corresponding civil ceremony tagged on to it, so to speak. From the couple's point of view, this simply involves them signing the civil register in the sacristy after the religious ceremony. The priest is a registered civil solemniser and so the marriage is thereby recognised and recorded by the State. In my day we all knew that the couple adjourned to the sacristy "to sign the register", but I am sure very few of us, me included, ever fully appreciated the niceties of what was happening.

Proposed exemption - click for larger image

Bringing in civil same sex marriage created a potential problem for the Church. In fulfilling his civil function a priest would now be performing a marriage which, while it would only involve a heterosexual couple in this case, did include in its remit the marriage of same sex couples. This led the Church to threaten to withdraw their priests from the solemnising of all civil marriages if the same sex marriage referendum was passed.

Even worse, the Church feared that the inclusion of same sex unions in the civil definition of marriage might result in their members being obliged to solemnise such unions on behalf of the State. So the Government promised them an exemption and this is reflected in Head 7 of the proposed draft legislation above.

Bert & Ernie to top cake - click for larger image

However, the whole area of exceptions has the potential for opening up a can of worms as illustrated in a recent case in Northern Ireland where a bakery refused, on religious grounds, to supply a cake with a pro same sex marriage slogan on it. The bakery has been found guilty of infringing equality legislation. This has made the church in the south very nervous as the solemnisers' exemption is simply being proposed in law and is not enshrined in the constitutional amendment.

This all provoked me into wondering what other exceptions might need to be provided for. And what other, even tenuously related, issues might be lying around which could be tidied up by tagging them onto the proposed legislation. There is a tradition in Government of tagging even unrelated outstanding issues onto legislation which happens to be going through the Oireachtas. The Attorney General's people don't like this as it leads to very confusing legislation afterwards but it is not always their call.

Now would be the time to sort all this out as the relevant legislation is about to be rushed through the Oireachtas before the summer break.

Bakeries and other such product and service providers would be one area for consideration.

Gerry's teddies - click for larger image

But what about Gerry Adams's same sex teddies. What if Gerry were to turn up before a solemniser with Tom in one hand and Ted in the other and ask that solemniser, politely one hopes, to perform a union. What then?

Modest double bed - click for larger image

Or, leaving same sex aside and just considering creature comfort, and possibly even a bit of heterosexual hanky panky, what about those old folk in Father Scully House who are currently denied double beds?

I'm sure the list is endless.

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