The history of marriage equality in Ireland

A social revolution begins

By Sonja Tiernan

The history of marriage equality in Ireland


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4599-4
  • Pages: 192
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: March 2020
  • BIC Category: Family Law: Marriage & Divorce, Ireland, Society & social sciences / Social issues & processes, Humanities / Social & cultural history, LAW / Family Law / Marriage, HISTORY / Europe / Ireland, RELIGION / Christian Life / Love & Marriage, FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS / Marriage & Long Term Relationships, FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS / LGBT, Family law: marriage, separation and divorce, Irish History, Modern History, History


Ireland is the first country in the world to extend civil marriage to same sex couples through a public vote. The marriage equality referendum saw record numbers turn out to register their votes including Irish emigrants who returned from around the world to ensure an impressive majority in favour of this constitutional amendment. The overwhelming positive result marked a clear separation of church and State for possibly the first time in Ireland. The Yes Equality campaign ignited a social revolution across Ireland, witnessed more recently with further referenda decriminalising abortion and introducing a less punitive regime for obtaining a divorce.

Utilising published reports, newspaper articles, marriage equality papers and extracts from Dáil debates, this book traces the key legislative and social changes surrounding Irish marriage equality, from the establishment of the advocacy group in 2008 to the referendum on the extension of civil marriage rights to same-sex couples in Ireland in 2015. With a foreword by Ivana Bacik, a Senator and Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College Dublin, best known for her tireless work defending human rights, this book offers a concise historical record of the momentous referendum on marriage equality.


'Sonja Tiernan's invaluable contribution to the history of social progress in Ireland recognises and celebrates the many unsung heroes who worked for long years to achieve the historic 2015 result.'
From the foreword by Senator Ivana Bacik

'How a revolution is chronicled is almost as important as the revolution itself, because without a clear and informed history, the lessons of the revolution are lost. Luckily for us and for future generations, the lessons of the history of marriage equality in Ireland are safe in the hands - and prose; and sharp mind - of Sonja Tiernan.'
Rory O'Neill (Panti Bliss)

'The steady if not always stirring story of legal reform and legislative process is one of the important themes threading Tiernan's history of Ireland's marriage movement. Indeed, despite that revolutionary subtitle, the strength of this book is not a portrait of social revolution but the author's careful and almost methodical representation of the movement and its legal and political contexts. [...] Now we can add Sonja Tiernan's careful and rich historical account to [the] little bookshelf of radical change.'
Estudios Irlandeses

'I have no doubt that this book will inspire future studies on the history of LGBTQ rights and activism in Ireland [...] I hope that future research will build on Tiernan's excellent work and utilise oral history to further illuminate the experiences of Irish LGBTQ men and women and activists.'
Women's History Association of Ireland

Reminds us that successful campaigns often build on the hard, decades-long work of activists.'
Michaela Appeltova, Radical History Review

Tiernan takes the reader on a very well-mapped journey through the ups and downs and complications of the campaign for equal marriage, which included tensions between those that sought civil partnership and those that believed only same-sex marriage would bring real equality. Tiernan's study is a tribute to activism; it highlights what thankless work it can often be and how determination is the key ingredient required. Crucially, she reinforces the value of knowing the history of things because the arguments and tactics used to block change are rarely new.'
Lindsey Earner-Byrne, Irish Historical Studies (2022), 46 (169)


1 Irish Historical and Global Context
2 The Path to the High Court
3 Civil Partnership Bills
4 Marriage Equality a New Direction
5 Political Lobbying, the Media & Influencing Public Opinion
6 Meeting the Challenges of the Twenty First Century
7 Preparing for a Revolution
8 Yes Equality
9 The Campaign in Action
10 The Final Hurdles
11 The Referendum
Afterword: Future Directions


Sonja Tiernan is the Eamon Cleary Chair of Irish Studies and co-director of the Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Otago

The history of marriage equality in Ireland

By Sonja Tiernan

Hardcover £85.00 / $130.00

Paperback £20.00 / $29.95

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