The people of Ireland will be able to vote on the legal status of same-sex marriage in a referendum next May, the Deputy Prime Minister has announced.
In their final meeting before Christmas, the Irish Cabinet agreed to hold the referendum, although a specific date has not yet been set.
The announcement was welcomed by gay marriage advocates across the country. Kieran Rose, chair of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network in Ireland, said a successful referendum would “complete the remarkable journey to Constitutional equality for lesbian and gay people”.
Recent polling suggests that same-sex marriage will be legalised. The latest survey taken by the Irish Times found that 71 per cent of the voting public would support such a change in the law. In August, a pro-gay marriage march took place in Dublin.
Despite the positive polls, advocates for same-sex marriage are not taking anything for granted.
“Our biggest threat is our supporters taking these figures as fact and bowing out of voting,” said the co-chair of campaign group Marriage Equality Andrew Hyland.
He added that the referendum was a chance for young people to create “the Ireland they want to live in” and for older people to “leave a legacy they can be proud of”.
Gay marriage will not be the only issue on the ballot. On the same day, Irish citizens will also be asked to decide on a change in the country’s constitution which would lower the minimum age for presidential candidates from 35 to 21.