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Ireland to Vote on Gay Marriage Referendum as Christians Argue on Both Sides of Issue

( [email protected] ) May 19, 2015 01:45 AM EDT

Ireland Gay Marriage
Image: 'No' campaign poster in Dublin, Ireland. Photo: Reuters

The people of Ireland will have the opportunity to directly vote on the issue of whether or not to allow same-sex marriage on Friday. The vote has placed Christians within the traditionally Catholic country on opposing sides.

According to Henry McDonald of the Guardian, liberal Roman Catholic priests and nuns have urged a yes vote on Friday, defying their bishops. On the opposite side, leaders in the evangelical Christian community in the country have campaigned for a no vote.

"The Irish Republic is the first country in the world to hold a referendum to decide on whether or not the state should allow gay marriage," McDonald wrote. "If passed, the right of gay couples to marry will be incorporated into the Republic's constitution."

McDonald reported that "radical Catholic clergy" such as Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, a prominent anti-poverty campaigner, have backed gay marriage; they also have the support of the current Fine Gael-Labour government. However, opposition to "marriage equality" has been represented by more than 30 born-again Christian pastors originally from Africa.

"Among the age group with the highest voting rate in Ireland - the over-65s- a majority say they would reject the move to equal marriage," McDonald wrote. "Organizers of an evangelical alliance for a no vote believe that the votes of up to 200,000 African and eastern European immigrants, many of them conservative Christians and Muslims, could help swing the vote in favor of no on 22 May."

Pastor Adewale Kuyebi, who was born in Nigeria, told McDonald that he was confident the members of his church would vote no.

"We don't need to tell them what to do because they already know that it is against the scriptures to allow for same-sex marriages," Kuyebi said. "Our church encourages all our members to vote in this democracy and I am confident all of them are for the no side because they read their Bible and understand what it tells them."

Kuyebi added that he is using an app called "Whatsapp" as a way to get out the vote to people.

"This app has touched 30,000 believers already and will reach many more over this week because we do not want a godless law being incorporated into the Irish constitution," Kuyebi said.

According to McDonald, Catholic leader Paddy Monaghan has organized a "multi-Christian alliance" that included evangelical and Pentecostal churches dominated by minority groups. Monaghan thought the Irish media was underestimating the influence and thoughts of minority immigrants who recently became citizens of Ireland.

"African and other Christians from different countries who have come to settle in Ireland have, in my opinion, been missed by the Irish media and the pollsters' radar," Monaghan said. "They would be a bit more nervous about expressing their true opinions but when it comes to voting they will get out there and vote no. That is one important reason why I think that the opinion polls have underestimated the support for no."

According to Lisa McNally of NBC News, the amendment to the Irish constitution would redefine marriage to include same-sex unions. Ireland already legalized civil partnerships back in 2010.

"I think we can have equality and leave marriage as it is," Petra Conroy of Catholic Comment said, adding that Friday's referendum would focus on "the unique mother, father and child relationship."

NBC News reported that even prominent people in Ireland, such as U2 singer Bono and Gaelic football player Ger Brennan, have expressed their views on the issue.

"Think about it - trying to co-opt the word 'marriage' is like trying to co-opt the word 'love.' You can't own it," Bono said. "Marriage is now an idea that transcends religion. It is owned by the people. They can decide. It is not a religious institution."

Brennan wrote an editorial supporting the "No" campaign. He made it clear that his decision did not necessarily make him "homophobic."

"I am voting 'No' because I don't want our Constitution to deny that it is a good thing for a child to have a mother and a father," Brennan wrote. "I very nearly decided not to write this piece. I know I'll be targeted for it."

According to the Guardian, Friar Brian D'Arcy disputed warnings from the "No" campaign that traditional marriage in Ireland would end if the vote went in favor of same-sex marriage.

"It will not be an apocalyptic day for marriage or the family. We would be simply redefining marriage in a different way," D'Arcy said. "A yes vote would not change the sacramental meaning of marriage inside a church or holy place at all."

However, Pastor Mike Garba of north Dublin cited the Bible as the reason why people in Ireland should vote down same-sex marriage.

"If you read your Bible, then you know that it is against Christianity to see the same sexes marrying," Garba said. "It is the same in churches like ours all over the country - 100 percent no to this."

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