DUBLIN, Ireland — Ireland on May 22 became the first country to hold a public vote amending its constitution to allow gay marriage, but the change will not force houses of worship to perform the unions.
Instead, gay couples will be able to enter in “civil marriage,” a separate institution from but affording all the legal benefits of “religious marriage,” according to the Yes Equality civil group that spearheaded the drive for the constitutional change.
“No religious institution can be forced to marry a lesbian or gay couple against their beliefs,” the group’s website reads. “Churches will be able to continue with religious ceremonies and will not be required to conduct wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.”
Ireland’s Justice Department plans to draft a marriage bill this week that will permit those taking vows in civil ceremonies to choose either to be “husband and wife” or “spouses of each other,” satisfying the demands of religious groups including Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims that no church will be required to perform gay marriage in the country, the Associated Press reported. [Read more…]