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IHREC publishes policy statement on access to civil marriage

February 12th 2015

Equinet’s Irish member, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (the Commission), today, published its policy statement on access to civil marriage. Welcoming the proposed referendum, the Commission believes that the opening out of civil marriage to two persons, without distinction as to their sex, is a matter of equality and human rights. The Commission stated that to promote access to civil marriage and to enhance full protection of family life for all couples, without distinction as to their sex, the referendum is an important step.

This policy statement aims to inform Government and the Oireachtas of the relevant and emerging human rights and equality standards in this field, including legal developments in other jurisdictions, as they consider the question of access to civil marriage. The Commission provides this information in accordance with its mandate to promote equality and human rights under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014.

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission said “The opening up of civil marriage to two persons, without distinction as to their sex, is a matter of equality and human rights. After reviewing human rights and equality standards and case-law from other countries, the Commission considers that the current Constitutional position relating to marriage does not provide full recognition and equality of status for same-sex couples in a way that would underpin wider equality for people in Irish society."

Ms Logan continued “Marriage is celebrated in Ireland as a key part of an individual’s and a family’s participation in the social and cultural life of the State. By excluding couples from participation in a social and cultural institution on the basis of their sex, the Commission considers that Irish law does not provide full recognition and equality of status for same-sex couples. In other countries, in extending access to civil marriage, the Courts have recognised that equality encompasses not only the practical benefits and responsibilities of marriage, but the equal status and recognition of their relationship within their communities”.

Ms Logan concluded “The Constitution protects ‘the family which is founded on the institution of marriage..’; although marriage is not explicitly defined as being between a man and a woman in the text of the Constitution, the Irish Superior Courts have interpreted the protections under the Constitution as extending to different-sex couples only.” The Commission reiterates its view that the opening out of civil marriage to two persons, without distinction as to their sex, is a matter of equality and human rights and that the Government’s proposal to hold a Constitutional referendum is an important step.

This comes in advance of a Referendum on Marriage Equality due to take place in May 2015.

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