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Vote YES mural on Dublin's Richmond Street in the build up to the Gay Marriage Referendum, that takes place in Ireland on May 22, 2015. Dublin, Ireland, on April 19, 2015. (Photo by Artur Widak) (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto) (Photo by NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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Yes: Marriage Equality’s Path to Victory in Ireland

This chapter first appeared in Advocacy for Impact courtesy of The Atlantic Philanthropies. 

Lessons for Advocates

The Marriage Equality campaign in the Republic of Ireland was very much a product of its time and place. Yet there are several transferable lessons from this successful effort to expand rights and protections for LGBT people:

  1. Strategy is everything
  2. Test your assumptions
  3. Maximize your advantages and minimize your disadvantages

 

Full Chapter

 

The Atlantic Philanthropies had a long interest in helping build and sustain organizations at the forefront of advancing and protecting people’s human rights, particularly for those most marginalized or unfairly disadvantaged in places where the foundation had a presence. As part of that work in the Republic of Ireland, Atlantic made substantial investments from 2004 to 2013 in organizations seeking to change laws and attitudes so that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people could enjoy the same rights and protections as their fellow citizens. Among the outcomes of their advocacy was the 2010 passage of a civil partnership law.

Five years later, Irish voters took the historic step of approving a ballot referendum that legalized marriage for all people regardless of sexual orientation. Atlantic did not contribute any funds to the marriage equality campaign. As the following summary shows, for longtime Atlantic grantees who carried out the successful campaign, their work represented a natural evolution of what the foundation had originally funded them to do.

Among the outcomes of Atlantic advocacy was the 2010 passage of a civil partnership law in Ireland.

 

TRACING THE MARRIAGE EQUALITY VICTORY BACK TO ITS ROOTS

In May 2015, Irish voters overwhelmingly voted to add 17 words to their constitution, thus allowing marriage “by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” In doing so, Ireland became the first country to legalize marriage for same-sex couples by popular vote. The measure was approved with over 60 percent of the vote.

The measure legalizing same-sex marriage was approved with over 60 percent of the vote.

Ireland has come a long way in a very short time in granting civil rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. This small, overwhelmingly Catholic country has emerged as one of the most progressive nations on earth in terms of how it treats LGBT people.

As recently as 1993, there were laws on the books that criminalized homosexuality. A small but powerful movement to advance LGBT rights helped overturn those laws, and by 2000, Ireland passed legislation to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the workplace, in how goods and services were provided to LGBT people, and in other public settings.

In 2010, the Irish government passed a law establishing legal civil partnership for same-sex couples, which included a host of protections involving taxation, social welfare, and rights of survivorship. The law notably did not establish rights for non-biological parents of children in same-sex relationships, for which it was bitterly condemned by some in the LGBT community, although others felt that the civil partnership law was a necessary step along the way. It would take the 2015 referendum to fully realize marriage equality.

In May 2015, Irish voters overwhelmingly voted to add the following 17 words to their constitution: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

The May 2015 victory was followed closely by a law that requires the legal recognition of a person’s gender of choice based on self-determination— making Ireland only the fourth country in the world at the time to adopt that approach.

How did Ireland come so far, so fast? How did a nation that viewed being gay go a criminal offense become a nation embracing the right of gay people to marry?

Many would say that the campaign for marriage equality in Ireland began in earnest in 2004 when two women living in Ireland—American-born Katherine Zappone and Irish-born Ann Louise Gilligan—sought to have their Canadian marriage recognized in Ireland so they could file a joint tax return there. The case eventually rose to the Irish Supreme Court and was rejected on the ground that the Court interpreted the Irish constitution to mean that same-sex couples could not marry.

Zappone and Gilligan helped provide momentum to a movement that had been gaining traction, but which was still primarily staffed by grassroots volunteers. These activists had made advances in areas like health, employment, and housing, but fundamental rights, like marriage and gender identity, seemed very far off.

GRANTMAKING STRATEGY

It was against that backdrop that Atlantic launched an effort to protect and advance the rights of LGBT people in Ireland through its Reconciliation & Human Rights Program.

From 2004 to 2011, Atlantic made $8.8 million in grants, primarily to four organizations. These organizations offered a variety of voices with somewhat different points of view about how to achieve full rights for LGBT people. As Mary Sutton, Atlantic’s Country Director for the Republic of Ireland, notes, “This is a classic case where there were a number of grantees working on an issue, but there were conflicting views about the most effective approach. We didn’t favor one over the other, and it wasn’t obvious beforehand that one strategy would win over the other.”

The organizations that Atlantic supported were:

Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN)

GLEN* was the only existing national organization focusing on LGBT issues at the time and had been operating through volunteer efforts since 1988. In 2004, GLEN was able to significantly expand its professional staff due to a multi-year investment from Atlantic. GLEN had excellent relationships with many political leaders and believed it was possible to influence what it called the “moveable middle.” It also supported the civil partnership law as an important interim step toward marriage equality, which put it at odds with other LGBT groups.

It wasn’t obvious beforehand that one strategy would win over the other.

 

Marriage Equality

The organization called Marriage Equality* was created in 2008 as a follow-up to an initiative launched in 2005 to provide advocacy in support of Zappone and Gilligan. Its grassroots efforts incorporated outreach in rural communities in which LGBT people advocated directly to their elected officials in a campaign called “Out to your TD.”** The organization focused on the goal of full marriage rights for all and believed that the civil partnership law would slow progress toward full marriage rights.

While Atlantic did not set a goal of achieving marriage equality, it helped advocates lay the groundwork to achieve that in the future.

 

Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI)

TENI was launched in 2008, and Atlantic made a significant investment in 2009 at a time when Ireland did not offer any legal recognition or provide an opportunity to transgender people to amend their birth certificates. Moreover, there were no government policies to protect transgender people, nor were they expressly protected under any equality or hate crime legislation.

LGBT Diversity

Recognizing that LGBT people living in rural areas can be particularly isolated, Atlantic funded a strategy to address the particular concerns and needs of LGBT people living outside of Dublin, and to advance legal protections and social acceptance in these regions. This approach would pay off in the referendum campaign, which paid particular attention to rural communities.

GOALS

Atlantic’s grantmaking goals were to: deliver legislative change on same-sex partnerships and transgender identity; encourage changes in mainstream services to incorporate the needs of LGBT people; ensure that the organizations that served LGBT communities could be sustained over time; and increase cohesiveness within and across LGBT communities in Ireland. Atlantic did not identify as a goal achieving marriage equality, although it is clear that by identifying the preconditions for legally mandated equal treatment for LGBT people in Ireland such an outcome became possible. To achieve these goals, Atlantic understood the value of providing core support for organizations that were well-positioned to succeed.

“A culture that encourages respect, values opinions, celebrates differences, and promotes positive relationships is better for all.” Ruarí Quinn, former Minister for Education and Skills

Atlantic placed a particular focus on providing long-term general operating support for the four organizations. While Atlantic required their grantees to develop strategic plans and clear theories of change, they also gave grantees considerable leeway to do their own planning and implementation and make mid-course corrections as they saw fit. “That core support gave us the capacity we needed to develop our strategy,” said Brian Sheehan, who served as executive director of GLEN from 2007 to 2016. “The luxury was that we never had to explain our strategy, because we had built a relationship that both parties believed would deliver change.”

Atlantic understood the value of providing core support for organizations that were well positioned to succeed.

 

During the period from 2004 to 2011, Atlantic grantees achieved a string of victories.

GLEN worked with the Irish Ministry for Education and Skills to create the ministry’s first Action Plan on Bullying, which placed a particular emphasis on the problem of homophobic bullying in publicly funded schools, most of which are under the control of the Catholic Church. In releasing the plan, Ruarí Quinn, then Minister for Education and Skills, noted, “A culture that encourages respect, values opinions, celebrates differences, and promotes positive relationships is better for all.” The marriage equality movement would later draw directly on this affirmative approach during its campaign. GLEN worked with the Psychological Society of Ireland and the Irish College of Psychiatry to ensure that medical professionals working with LGBT people would have the training they needed to support their patients effectively. TENI worked with the Health Service Executive to provide medical services that were specifically designed to help transgender people. Atlantic grantees worked with trade unions to improve conditions for LGBT people in the workplace, they helped secure constitutional rights of parents and children in LGBT families, they advanced legislation that would ultimately lead to landmark gender recognition, and they were essential in passing a civil partnership law.

In November 2013, the government announced that it would hold a referendum in spring of 2015. The national campaign for marriage equality was underway.

 

THE CAMPAIGN TO ACHIEVE MARRIAGE EQUALITY

These achievements, while extremely important in themselves, were precursors to what many in Ireland consider to be a signal achievement— allowing all citizens in Ireland to marry regardless of their gender.

Timeline

The path to permitting marriage for all in Ireland began in earnest in 2011, when a newly formed coalition of the center-right Fine Gael Party and the center-left Labour Party called for a constitutional convention that would consider a number of changes to the Irish constitution, one of which was marriage equality. Modeled on an earlier, Atlantic-funded experiment in deliberative democracy called We The Citizens, the convention was finally held in April of 2013. As part of the deliberation process, GLEN, Marriage Equality, and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (known as ICCL) were given 30 minutes among them to make presentations in support of the proposition, which was broadcast live on national television. The convention was made up of 66 randomly selected members of the public, 33 elected officials, and a convention chairperson. After a total of three days of presentations, debate, and deliberation, the convention voted 79–21 to ask the government to put a referendum to the public that would change the constitution to allow for same-sex couples to marry. The next step required the government to schedule a national referendum on the issue. In November 2013, the government announced that it would hold a referendum in spring of 2015. The national campaign for marriage equality was underway. Under Irish law, official campaign activities, in which participants could distribute literature, display posters, and conduct other forms of classic campaigning, were limited to a short period preceding the actual vote. Nevertheless, the pre-campaign was every bit as important as the official campaign.

Many nonprofits will take months, if not longer, to design a strategic plan. There was no time for that.

 

Campaign Strategy

Most communications professionals will discuss the basics of communications strategy in much the same way—begin with goals, determine your decision makers and the people they listen to, create messages that speak to your audience’s values, and design a set of tactics to deliver those messages as efficiently as possible. Political campaigns, however, often don’t have the luxury to do the kind of strategic planning that usually goes into such communications campaigns. Instead, they can be forced to respond to a variety of factors beyond their control, like the vagaries of the election calendar, for example.

Once the government announced that it intended to schedule a national referendum, the pro-marriage forces had to act quickly. GLEN and Marriage Equality, which were on opposite sides of the civil unions legislation, realized that they would need to conduct a unified campaign. With ICCL joining as well, the groups began meeting weekly to plot strategy.

“Our communications started with values. Our research told us that the electorate believed in love, equality, fairness, generosity, and being inclusive. These were what it meant to be Irish.” Grainne Healy, co-director of the YES campaign

The three groups set up a steering committee to put the campaign in motion. They began their campaign with a branding effort. Most conventional communications efforts begin with strategy and then start working on the brand—the names, messages, and design elements of a campaign. But political efforts often force the strategist’s hand. The marriage equality proponents needed to create their identity in order to launch their campaign. They quickly coalesced around a simple, positive theme—“Yes Equality.” The group decided to focus on the collective values of Irish people, not on sexual orientation. Their name and their message would be inclusive and affirmative.

One potentially powerful asset was young people, whom research showed were overwhelmingly in favor of marriage.

 

As the partners plotted their strategy in summer of 2014, their first task was to maximize the vote. To be eligible to vote in the following year’s referendum, voters would need to register by late November. One potentially powerful asset was young people, whom research showed were overwhelmingly in favor of marriage. The problem was that they were extremely infrequent voters. Nevertheless, the campaign sought to register as many young people as they could. Later, they would use the energy generated during the registration phase to drive up turnout among this audience.

The campaign quickly built a set of online organizing tools, focusing on Facebook and Twitter, and created a variety of videos that they encouraged their online audiences to share with their friends. They enlisted the support of celebrities to create a set of messages that would appeal to young audiences. In addition, they created a robust merchandising effort, setting up an online store and a pop-up shop in Dublin. By the end of the campaign they would sell 6,500 t-shirts, 2,300 tote bags, and 800 jackets, and they would distribute more than 500,000 campaign badges.

Even though they were moving quickly to register voters, they had not yet found their voice. They had a name—Yes Equality—which was positive and inclusive, but they had not yet coalesced around their narrative.

The answer came in the most unlikely of places. A colleague had spotted a young woman in a news story about the Scottish independence referendum, which was being held in fall of 2014. The woman held a sign that read, “I’m voting yes, ask me why.” Campaign organizers realized that this was the approach they were looking for. As Grainne Healy, Brian Sheehan, and Noel Whelan note in their book Ireland Says Yes, this was not just a slogan, it was a strategy, and at the center of their strategy was tone.

The campaign sought to help the Irish people understand that gay people were fundamentally no different from any other Irish citizens.

 

Values and Tone

As co-director of the Yes campaign, Healy observed, “Our communications started with values. Our research told us that the electorate believed in love, equality, fairness, generosity, and being inclusive. These were what it meant to be Irish.” The campaign agreed at the very beginning to commit to a non-confrontational approach in which Yes proponents engaged others in conversations that were productive and positive. If they saw that their supporters were engaging in negative campaigning or using social media to attack their opponents, they would contact those supporters and request that the posts be removed.

“We understood how Irish people absorb change,” said co-campaign director Brian Sheehan. “We never lectured and we never alienated. We understood that change happens progressively.”

Yes proponents sought to find areas of agreement with those who had not yet made up their minds about how to vote. As Healy observed, “The wonderful thing about putting out those values is that it’s what people want to be. They want to come and be part of that.”

With a brand and a commitment to a way of expressing that brand, the group still knew that, to succeed, they would need a clear set of goals and a plan to carry them out. In very short order, the group began work on a strategy. Again, many nonprofits will take months, if not longer, to design a strategic plan. There was no time for that.

“We never lectured and we never alienated. We understood that change happens progressively.” Brian Sheehan, YES campaign co-director

Goals

Despite the compressed time period of the campaign, the partners were quickly able to create a campaign strategy that would prove successful. The strategy of the campaign to win over a majority of Irish voters was, according to Sheehan, to “make being gay unremarkable.” To do this, the campaign sought to help the Irish people understand that gay people were fundamentally no different from any other Irish citizens, and equality supporters sought to diffuse the potential conflict that differences around sexual orientation might create.

Sheehan explained that the electoral strategy of the campaign was to “move the moveable middle.” The campaign believed that people’s fear of change wasn’t necessarily due to hostility to lesbian and gay people, but simply reflected their concerns about the unknown. Thus, the campaign set out to explain how a yes vote would be good for all of Ireland.

Audiences

During the run-up to the announcement of the election, the campaign conducted audience research, which helped drive their strategy. While young people were strongly in favor of marriage equality, the campaign realized that it could not rely on young voters. Women aged 40–65 were perhaps the most likely yes voters.

They were strongly influenced by their children, they were reliable voters, and the campaign was confident that they would be an important anchor. Grandparents were also likely supporters for much the same reason—they were supportive of their grandchildren and would be sympathetic to them. (The campaign’s #RingYourGranny social media campaign took advantage of the connection between the generations and proved highly successful.)

Men aged 40–65 were seen as very soft yes voters, but research showed that they were susceptible to the no argument. Thus, the campaign sought to find messengers, like sports stars, who would appeal to this demographic.

If the campaign could win a significant number of these voters, they felt confident that they would win the election. Thus, they determined that they would not waste their time on voters that were solidly in opposition.

Messages

The campaign’s introductory message was more about tone than about any particular audience. The campaign was kicked off with a billboard that did not feature photos of its target audience or offer testimonials. In fact, it barely felt like a political advertisement at all. It simply read:

The messaging was relentlessly positive and focused on the voices of people who explained why they were voting yes. As Sheehan noted, “We knew that the frame of equal citizenship captured people. They cared about fairness and equality.” Thus, the campaign focused on these positive messages.

The messages were personal and never told anyone how to vote. Instead, the messenger simply explained why he or she was voting yes.

The campaign was effective at using messengers who they knew would speak to the values of the various audiences that they had identified as essential to victory.

Research showed that the most effective messengers were predominantly straight parents, grandparents, and other members of the community who saw the referendum as an opportunity to promote fairness. As Healy points out, “We had spent a lot of time previously doing visibility about LGBT couples. But the research was clear that we needed to show LGBT people embedded in their families. Our ads would show large, smiling families together, and it was impossible to know who the lesbian was.”

To shore up support with men aged 40–65, the campaign enlisted support from a wide range of Irish sports figures.

 

For example, one campaign ad depicting a mother and her children, read: “Our family is based on love, respect and acceptance. We’ve had four weddings so far, and I’d really like Anna to have the same opportunities as the rest of my family. She’s equal in my eyes.” The ad pointedly doesn’t identify which daughter is Anna.

Another ad designed to connect with mothers highlighted a typical Irish mother named Maureen Gowran, who wrote, “I raised five children who are all equal in my eyes. I’d like them to all have the same opportunity to marry the person they love.”

To appeal to grandparents, one flyer featured Madeleine Connelly, who explained, “I’m 90. I have 14 children, 25 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren. I’m a practicing Catholic. I wouldn’t miss Mass for anything. God made us all and he made us all equal. Everybody should have the opportunity to get married, and gay and lesbian people should have been free to get married years ago. Now is a great opportunity for everybody to get out and vote Yes. I think it’s very important.”

The group stuck with their strategy, tone, and talking points.

 

To shore up support with men aged 40–65, the campaign enlisted support from a wide range of Irish sports figures. One such message, from Donegal soccer star Eamon McGee, read, “I’m voting yes. If I’m lucky enough to have a child, he or she might be gay and I’d like them to be able to marry.”

Irish comedian Brendan O’Carroll, who plays the title character on the popular BBC comedy Mrs. Brown’s Boys, recorded a short video encouraging a yes vote. O’Carroll delivered his message in drag as the foul-mouthed Irish matriarch of the show. “What’s all the fecking fuss?” O’Carroll asked. The PSA was also turned into posters, which were distributed across Ireland.

The campaign was effective at using messengers who they knew would speak to the values of the various audiences that they had identified as essential to victory.

These messengers were predominantly straight people who understood how equality affected their lives. The messages were personal and never told anyone how to vote. Instead, the messenger simply explained why he or she was voting yes.

Sheehan recounts that he felt confident that marriage equality would pass when he asked Vivian Sheehan (no relation), an 85-year-old man who had grown up in rural Ireland, if he’d be willing to wear the 500,000th Yes Equality campaign badge. The man replied, “I’d be very honored to accept.”

Tactics

Just 10 days after the group began meeting formally, it created a one-page strategy that would guide all activities during the course of the campaign. The strategy had three phases:

The first phase focused on initiating conversations that encouraged people to speak with others about the issue of marriage equality, starting with the concept of “I’m voting yes, ask me why.” This would include neighborhood events, engaging people at campaign tables on the street, and in other large gatherings. The point was to get people talking about the issue in positive, constructive ways.

The second stage was what they referred to as “full engagement,” and would include national canvassing, national and local media debates and a bus tour through the 26 counties of Ireland, and would feature sending mail to every mailbox in Ireland (while the whole of Ireland has a population that is only somewhat larger than the city of Los Angeles, this is nevertheless no easy task).

The campaign set up 70 Yes Equality groups across the country, attending meetings, doing local media, and knocking on doors.

 

The final phase, which they called the “closing argument,” would focus on getting out the vote, and would emphasize the arguments (as yet to be determined) that had worked well during the previous phases.

The campaign created a one-page strategy that guided all activities.

The group stuck with their strategy, tone, and talking points. They focused on the audiences they needed to persuade and didn’t attempt to win over voters that they considered unwinnable. As their memo pointed out, “Everything else is not our work.”

Inside/Outside Campaign

This was not solely a grassroots movement, however. Indeed, it was the political marriage of Labour and Fine Gael that helped push for a referendum in the first place. Taking advantage of deep relationships with elected officials, the campaign lobbied forcefully in the Irish legislature for the support of as many members as possible. This aligned with a grassroots strategy that paid a great deal of attention to rural communities. The campaign set up 70 Yes Equality groups across the country, attending meetings, doing local media, and knocking on doors. One such group visited 142,000 households. This work built on efforts that Marriage Equality had begun with its “Out to your TD” campaign, in which gay and lesbian constituents were encouraged to meet personally with their elected officials and explain why they should support civil marriage. Similarly, many staff members from GLEN had been born and raised outside of Dublin and were able to call upon their rural upbringing to create messages that connected with a cross section of Irish voters.

Social media

Given relatively limited resources, the campaign had to be efficient, and social media provided a huge opportunity to connect personally to a wide audience to enlist others in communicating their message. Given that support was highest among people who were most active in social media—voters under 35— the campaign took advantage of the opportunities that social media presented. Yet, as Healy acknowledged, “Our biggest challenge was how to get ‘clicktivists’ to become activists.”

The campaign’s social media efforts were extremely successful. The campaign’s social media efforts were extremely successful. The campaign was very effective in using hashtags to organize its messaging. The hashtag #marref produced a half million tweets in Twitter, which generated more than one billion impressions. There were scores of hashtag campaigns, including #hometovote, which encouraged Irish supporters from around the globe to return home to cast their vote. By one estimate, 30,000 young people came home to Ireland to vote. The #RingYourGranny campaign encouraged young people to ask their grandparents to cast a yes vote. Even then-Prime Minister Enda Kenny used social media to advocate for a yes vote:

The campaign’s social media efforts were seen by experts as an essential element of the campaign’s success.

OBSTACLES

The campaign was not without its challenges. Perhaps the most serious problem was a regular lack of funding. As we have noted, the campaign received no funds from Atlantic, and thus had to spend time and effort raising funds to keep afloat. As Healy notes, strict regulations about political fundraising in Ireland made it hard to finance the campaign. She adds that, unlike other countries, particularly the United States, there is no culture for raising political funds from the public. On three separate occasions, the campaign had to resort to online crowdfunding to raise money from the public. Perhaps even more important than money was the question of how the two primary organizations, GLEN and Marriage Equality, would work together. Given that these were the two most prominent gay rights organizations in the country, it is hard to see how the campaign would succeed without them collaborating closely. Yet in 2010, the groups were on opposite sides of legislation to make civil unions legal. GLEN felt that it was a necessary first step to civil marriage, but Marriage Equality felt that the legislation did not go far enough and would dilute enthusiasm for marriage. The dispute left lasting scars that would have to be addressed in order for the campaign to succeed. As the campaign kicked off, Brian Sheehan and Grainne Healy reconciled their differences and became co-directors of the campaign. Indeed, they worked so closely together (even working at side-by-side desks in the middle of the campaign office) that they came to be known collectively as “Brainne.”

On three separate occasions, the campaign had to resort to online crowdfunding to raise money from the public.

 

LESSONS FOR THE FIELD

The Irish campaign was very much a product of its time and place. The Yes Equality team ran a relentlessly positive campaign, which might be considered almost quaint in the modern political era. Yet there are without question a number of transferable lessons that we can take away from their victory.

1. Strategy is everything. The campaign set out a clear strategy and it was extremely disciplined in sticking to it. Central to that strategy was a commitment to running a positive campaign. This was established in part because the Yes campaign believed that they were more likely to move the so-called “moveable middle” this way, but they also believed that a contentious election could cause problems in the future. As Sheehan observed, “How you win is as important as what you win. Never leave losers because you don’t want your gains to be reversed.”

2. Test your assumptions. As Healy explained, “Do your research, do your research, do your research. Find out who’s with you and who’s against you. Why are they against you? What are their issues?” As a result of the campaign’s extensive research, it identified their key audiences as well as the messengers to whom those audiences were most responsive. As Healy noted, “We targeted the million in the middle, and we ended up with 1.7 million.”

3. Only do what you can do. The short strategy that the team drew up just after the campaign’s launch is instructive, and the part that seems to stand out is, “Everything else is not our work.” They were able to maximize their advantages and minimize disadvantages. As GLEN’s former co-chair Kieran Rose explained, “If you’re campaigning on a minority issue, you must win a majority. To do this, you have to consolidate your supporters, win over the doubters, and pacify those who are opposed.” The campaign followed this approach closely, by trying to turn out young people, moving mothers and grandmothers, and refusing to argue with the opposition.

“If you’re campaigning on a minority issue, you must win a majority. To do this, you have to consolidate your supporters, win over the doubters, and pacify those who are opposed.” Kieran Rose, former GLEN co-chair

CONCLUSION

The result was an overwhelming victory for the Marriage Equality campaign. The yes vote won 25 out of 26 of Ireland’s counties, with a total of 62.1 percent in favor. Ireland became the first country to pass a law on same-sex marriage by national referendum, and the campaign for marriage equality is seen as one of the most successful social change campaigns in modern history.

As Sheehan notes, “We had run a campaign that had reached the hearts and minds of the Irish people. It allowed people to be their better selves and vote yes. We set out to change the constitution, but in doing that we changed a country.”

Ireland became the first country to pass a law on same-sex marriage by national referendum, and the campaign for marriage equality is seen as one of the most successful social change campaigns in modern history.

 

RESOURCES ON THE MARRIAGE REFERENDUM IN IRELAND

1. Successful Grants: Civil Partnership for Same-Sex Couples, Alliance Magazine, 5 March 2014. www.atlanticphilanthropies.org/news/successful-grants-civil-partnershipsame-sex-couples

2. Rights Group Scoops “Community Group of the Year” Award for Yes Equality Campaign. www.iccl.ie/news/2015/12/07/rights-group-scoops

3. Lydia Foy honoured by European Parliament on day she receives birth certificate, 25 September 2015. www.flac.ie/news/latestnews/2015/09/25/lydia-foy-honoured-byeuropean-parliament-on-day-s/

4. The Irish vote for marriage equality started at a constitutional convention. Washington Post, June 5, 2015. www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/06/05/theirish-vote-for-marriage-equality-started-at-a-constitutional-convention/

5. Young people voted in droves for marriage equality in Ireland. Equality would have won without them. Washington Post, June 30, 2015. www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkeycage/wp/2015/06/30/young-people-voted-in-droves-for-marriage-equality-in-irelandequality-would-have-won-without-them/

6. How the yes was won. The inside story of the marriage referendum. Irish Times, November 6, 2015. www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/how-the-yes-was-won-theinside-story-of-the-marriage-referendum-1.2418302

7. Ireland Says Yes: The Inside Story of How the Vote for Marriage Equality Was Won, Book Review, Irish Times, October 31, 2015. www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/irelandsays-yes-the-inside-story-of-how-the-vote-for-marriage-equality-was-won-bookreview-1.2411456

 

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