The Agenda

Report: U.S. groups trying to stop Irish marriage equality

Ireland this week could become the world’s first country to legalize same-sex marriage via popular vote. New polling suggests Irish voters will say “yes” to marriage equality in a national referendum set for Friday, but some advocates don’t fully trust those polls amid a last-minute infusion of cash from anti-gay groups abroad.
“Look at how Prop 8 happened — Prop 8 was a slam dunk [for LGBTQ rights supporters] until the result came in and it turned out it wasn’t,” said Brian Sheehan, the co-director of Ireland’s “Yes” marriage equality campaign and a Victory Institute Bohnett LGBTQ Leadership Fellow. In 2008, California’s Proposition 8 campaign saw late-breaking ads from anti-gay groups about the harm same-sex marriage could inflict on children, messaging that was credited with tipping the final outcome in favor of ending marriage rights for same-sex couples. BuzzFeed News reported last week that Ireland’s “No” campaign was receiving assistance from some of the same groups that helped pass Proposition 8, and a report in the The Guardian this weekend said the campaign was being “bankrolled” by evangelical Christian groups in the U.S.
The campaign has prompted some high-profile figures in Ireland to come out as gay, including the country’s health minister, Leo Varadkar. “I just kind of want to be honest with people. I don’t want anyone to think that I have a hidden agenda,” Varadkar said in a January radio interview discussing the marriage referendum.