Irish voters mull constitutional amendments downgrading traditional family structure

Maria Steen Maria Steen, an Irish barrister, makes the case for rejecting proposed amendments to Ireland's constitution. | Credit: Screenshot/EWTN News Nightly

Voters in Ireland went to the polls today to decide on whether or not to strip from the country’s constitution recognition of the central role of the traditional family founded on marriage as well as the societal value of women within the home. Final results from the vote aren’t expected until Saturday.

In an interview with “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol, Maria Steen, an Irish barrister, made the case for rejecting the proposed “Family Amendment” that would both remove a clause about the importance of marriage and family to society as well as legally redefine “family” as either “founded on marriage or on other durable relationships.”

“Now, the government isn’t able to tell us what ‘durable relationships’ means, and although it has been put to them many times, they say it will be up to the courts to decide,” Steen told Sabol. “So, in effect, the Irish people are being asked to vote on something with no definition, that they don’t know who the parties to it are, or the effects that it will have.”

In addition to the “Family Amendment,” the proposed “Care Amendment” would also remove a constitutional clause noting that the “state recognizes that by her life within the home, woman gives to the state a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.”

The proposed “Care Amendment” would also remove an article of the Irish Constitution that says “the state shall, therefore, endeavor to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labor to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

“The government is talking about deleting the word ‘woman,’ the word ‘mother,’ and the word ‘home’ from our constitution,” Steen noted. 

These clauses would be replaced by an article noting that the state will “strive to support” the care that “members of a family” give to one another “without which the common good cannot be achieved.”

When asked about the response of the women of Ireland to the proposal, Steen noted that there’s “a lot of concern.”

“There’s a feeling among women that the idea, the symbolism of erasing the words ‘woman’ and ‘mother’ from the constitution is, in effect, grotesque,” she said. 

When asked about the effects of these amendments, Steen said it could have unintended consequences for things like family inheritance. 

“The benefit of marriage is that everybody knows what they’re getting into,” she said in reference to civil marriage, adding: “... Because it is publicly witnessed, everybody knows that both parties have consented to it.”

Without this “external evidence,” the legal category for long-term couples is unclear, she explained. 

Steen also noted that the “durable relationship” would be “put at the same level” as a marriage. 

“So, for instance, somebody could make a claim for inheritance or maintenance from a former boyfriend or girlfriend at the same level as a husband or wife could,” she explained. “And the other person had never consented to being in a marriage or a marriage-like relationship.”

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