RoI ‘opening door to polygamy with latest attempt to devalue marriage’

The Republic of Ireland will push itself down a slippery slope if it votes to equate “durable relationships” with marriage, Senators have warned.

The Irish Government’s proposals, which will be put to a referendum in March, would remove the statement that the “Family is founded” on the “institution of Marriage” and say that family as the “natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society” can be “founded on marriage or founded on other durable relationships”.

But members of the Seanad Éireann have warned that the vague definition, which may impact family and immigration law, could be expanded by future court rulings to include polygamous or polyamorous relationships. A 2015 referendum previously redefined marriage in Ireland to include same-sex marriage.


Equalities Minister Roderic O’Gorman claimed the phrase “durable relationships” was only designed to include “cohabitees” and “one-parent families”, and he dismissed the risk of it being interpreted to include “polygamous marriages”.

But Senator Rónán Mullen said that despite his assurances, the proposed amendment “devalues marriage” by equating it with a phrase he “cannot define” in the Constitution or prevent “potential interpretations” of in the future.

He said that if passed, the “Government will say the family is still based on marriage and that it has just extended the definition but, no, it has emptied the definition of any meaning”.


Senator Michael McDowell added: “I believe in marriage for this reason: it involves simply more than cohabitation. It involves more than that, in that it is a solemn decision by two people in the eyes of the law to make commitments to each other and to any children they may have.”

“The whole concept of duty seems to be one that we are devaluing to some extent. The point I am making is this: why get married at all, if one can cohabit and have exactly the same status in the eyes of the law?”

He highlighted that if the Government were to look to “immigration law, to succession law, to pensions law and to a series of issues of that kind, the Minister would find there is every good reason to proceed with caution”.


In addition, the Government seeks to remove the Constitution’s statement that “by her life within the home, Woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved”.

When the referendum was announced, university lecturer Colette Colfer was one of many women setting out her opposition to the change, saying: “I would argue that women in the home do give a ‘support without which the common good cannot be achieved’ (article 41.2.1).

“I will be voting no to the proposed changes as the current constitution provides safeguards for women & does NOT prevent women from working outside the home”.

Also see:

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United Methodist Church losing hundreds more US churches over sexual ethics