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Newstalk

22.50 11 May 2015


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Referendum Commissioner Justice Kevin Cross took listeners' questions on the upcoming referendums, and helped clarify a lot of issues that have been causing some heated debate in recent weeks.

#MarRef: You asked us your questions - here's how the Referendum Commissioner answered

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

The country will have its say on these two important referenda on May 22nd.

For the marriage referendum, you may vote Yes or No to the proposal to include a new clause about marriage in the Constitution. This new clause provides that two people may marry each other regardless of their sex.

The proposed amendment to the Constitution is contained in the Thirty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

For the age of Presidential candidates, you may vote yes or no to the proposal to reduce the age at which candidates are eligible for election to the office of President from 35 to 21.

The proposal is contained in the Thirty-Fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015.

Q1: If yes or no wins what will happen?

 A: If no wins the present situation will continue, there will be no change.

If yes wins, it means that two people of same sex will be able to marry each other just as two people of the opposite sex may marry. The constitutional status of marriage will remain unchanged.

Q2: If 'Yes' wins, is marriage redefined?

A: That’s a matter of nuance and a matter of opinion.

The legal effects of marriage are precisely the same. If it passes, it will be opened up to two people of the same sex.

There will be no removal of status of existing marriages.

Q3: Are we therefore defining the family?

A: No, we are saying that two people of the same sex can become a family. 

Q4: Would there be an automatic right to have children if yes wins out?

A: No. The courts have held that a family has the right to procreate. But the courts have never said that there is a right to access to artificial means to having children.

Equally, there is no right to anyone to adopt. People have a right to apply for adoption. Adoptions are always carried in the best interests of the child and that is now a constitutional requirement since the enactment of the Children's referendum. Who may apply has been set out in legislation. Recently, the Oireachtas passed a law that same sex couples can apply for adoption, same as a person of single status or opposite sex couples.

 Q5: Mary Buckley emailed to ask if there would there be an automatic right to surrogacy if the referendum is passed?

A: No, The government has plans to regulate surrogacy, but it is not laid out in the referendum.

Q6: Would there be an automatic right to adoption, if the referendum is passed?

A: There is no right for anyone to adopt. People have a right to apply for adoption. Adoption is not being dealt with in this referendum. It has already been dealt with in law.

Q7: Would any religious denomination be required to change their marriage rules if a yes vote passes?

A: No. In a civil marriage, two people marry each other not the priest. The civil marriage is solemnised into the religious ceremony by the priest.

The function that a priest performs in the civil side of marriage is simply to register it.

Nobody can force a priest to marry a person, if they are already divorce, for example. That is a matter for the church.

It's not just a conscientious objection. If someone says that will not complete a marriage course, the priest is entitled to refuse to marry them under religious liberty which is written into the constitution.

Q8: Would there be any obligation to change teaching on marriage in schools?

A: No. If the school, teaches civics they will be required to change their teachings. If a school is teaching their religious doctrine they will teach that marriage is for life and that even if they are divorced in the eyes of the law it is not recognised by the church.

Q9: Mark has been in touch to ask about civil partnership. He wants to know if that is not the same as marriage and what differences there are?

A: Constitutional protection of the family that a marriage gives you. Most of the practical differences have been ironed out. It is easier to dissolve a civil partnership as opposed to a marriage. The couple would need to have been separated by only two of three years rather than four of preceding five years under marriage.

 Practical Voting Day

Q10: Polling stations open 7am-10pm?

A: Yes

Q11: Do you need your polling card?

A: No, You can bring your passport and that will suffice once your name is on the register

Q12: The marriage question (34th amendment) paper is white? The Presidential age (35th amendment) paper is green?

A: Yes - white for marriage and green for the áras

If you have any questions for the Referendum Commission, send them to us at useyourvote@newstalk.com and we will put them to him.

For more information about the referendum, you can log on to their website here.


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