The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has warned that a 'Yes' vote in the upcoming referendum could lead to religious organisations facing legal action if they refuse to marry same-sex couples.
Archbishop Eamon Martin has warned that the proposed amendment to the Irish constitution will have far-reaching consequences, adding that it is not a "a simple or a trivial matter".
"Will there be lawsuits against individuals and groups who do not share this vision? What will we be expected to teach children in school about marriage or about homosexual acts? Will those who continue to sincerely believe that marriage is between a man and a woman be forced to act against their faith and conscience?" he asked in a statement.
Martin went on to state that changing the law would remove "the unique and privileged status in society for the marriage between a man and a woman".
He said: "If society adopts and imposes a new orthodoxy of 'gender-neutral' marriage, being defined simply as a union between any two persons – including a man and a man, or a woman and woman – then it will become increasingly difficult to speak or teach in public about marriage as being between a man and a woman."
Martin went on to call on Irish Catholics to "reflect and pray carefully on these issues" as May 22 approaches, adding that they should not "be afraid to speak up for the union of a man and a woman in marriage".
He explained that marriage is "about much more than a loving relationship between consenting adults", elaborating that having children is "another essential element".
"Until now, Ireland has accepted that it is in the best interests of children and of society to promote and protect the model of children being born and raised in a family with their biological parents," Martin added.
However, Irish prime minister Enda Kenny has stated that the right to equal marriage would not infringe on the churches right not to marry gay couples.
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