Fresh off of the country’s first same-sex weddings, Ireland’s Parliament has passed a bill removing religious exemptions from LGBT anti-discrimination laws.
The Republic of Ireland approved same-sex marriage in a landslide referendum earlier this year, by 62.07% to 37.93% – and overcoming bureaucratic hurdles, the green light has been given for weddings to start this afternoon.
However, the country’s equality minister has signalled that the measure won’t be the last in the country’s slate of reforms – following a radical new gender recognition law and adoption reforms also brought in this year.
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the Minister of State for Equality, has pushed ahead with a bill bill this week that will alter the state’s Employment Equality Act.
Section 37 of the existing law grants specific exemptions from sections protecting LGBT people to “religious, educational or medical institutions” – permitting them to discriminate “in order to maintain the religious ethos of the institution”.
However, the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill – which passed through its final stages in the Dáil late last night without opposition – strips the exemptions from the law.
The minister said he hopes the bill will remove the “chilling effect” of discrimination, telling the Irish Times: “I am proud of this Bill, having spent four years of my career bringing it to the eventuality it will become tonight.”
Sandra Irwin-Gowran, Director of Education Policy with the Gay&Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), said: “We are delighted that this Bill has passed all stages in the Dáil tonight.
“This Bill is the key piece of the legislative map that will allow LGBT people to be themselves, get married and have a family without a threat to their job if they work in a religious run institution.
“To date Section 37.1 has served to create a chilling effect for many LGBT employees. The existing provisions posed a threat of discrimination which has served to silence thousands of teachers in our school.
“The Bill passed tonight will go a long way towards thawing the threat hanging over LGBT and other employees. GLEN affirms the principle that every employee should enjoy equal protections in their workplace and in their recruitment and promotion prospects.
“This Bill removes a major barrier to that principle for those working in publicly funded institutions. We also note where further progress remains to be made for privately funded religious-run institutions, for trans people and for those of no religion.”