Marriage Act 2015

The Marriage Act 2015 (No. 35 of 2015;[1] previously bill No. 78 of 2015) is an act of the Oireachtas which provides for same-sex marriage in Ireland. The act gives legislative effect in statute law to the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, which mandates such provision. It was introduced on 15 September 2015 and signed into law on 29 October 2015, and commenced (came into force) on 16 November 2015.[2][3][4]

  • An Act to amend the Civil Registration Act 2004 to remove the impediment to marriage of the parties being of the same sex; to repeal certain provisions of Part 7A of that Act relating to registration of civil partnerships; to make provision in relation to religious bodies; to provide for the recognition of marriages under the law of a place other than the State; to amend the Succession Act 1965, the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 and the Gender Recognition Act 2015; to amend other enactments and to provide for matters connected therewith
CitationNo. 35 of 2015
Enacted byDáil Éireann
Passed7 October 2015
Enacted bySeanad Éireann
Passed22 October 2015
Signed29 October 2015
Signed byPresidential Commission
Commenced16 November 2015
Legislative history
Bill introduced in the Dáil ÉireannMarriage Bill 2015
Bill citationNo. 78 of 2015
Bill published on17 September 2015
Introduced byMinister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)
First reading15 September 2015
Second reading23 September 2015
Third reading7 October 2015
Introduced byMinister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)
Second reading20 October 2015
Third reading22 October 2015
Related legislation
Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland;
Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010
same-sex marriage, inheritance
Status: Current legislation


The Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland was approved by referendum on 22 May 2015. It makes recognition of same-sex marriages compulsory rather than optional. In March 2015, the Department of Justice and Equality published the general scheme of the Marriage Bill 2015, setting out the changes to be made to marriage law if the proposed amendment was enacted. Lawyer Benedict Ó Floinn felt the bill's drafting should have been completed before the referendum, to minimise the lacuna during which statute law is out of step with the constitution.[5] The Fine Gael–Labour government hoped to have the Marriage Bill enacted before the Oireachtas' summer adjournment, but the constitutional change did not come into force until 29 August 2015 when the amendment bill was signed into law by the President; it had been delayed until the Court of Appeal rejected two petitions challenging the conduct of the referendum.[6][7][8] The government stated its intention to enact the Marriage Bill "as early as possible" after the Dáil's resumption on 22 September 2015.[9] The bill was approved at a cabinet meeting on 16 September for publication the following day.[10]


The act's provisions include removing the previous legislative bar on same-sex couples marrying,[11] allowing foreign same-sex marriages to be registered in Ireland as marriages rather than as civil partnerships,[12] and dissolving a civil partnership if the partners marry each other.[13] Authorised solemnisers of marriage from religious groups are allowed to refuse to officiate at same-sex ceremonies.[14][15] The Gender Recognition Act 2015 as originally enacted required a transgender person to be unmarried to recognise a change of legal sex;[16] the Marriage Act removed this restriction.[17][18]

The act provided that applications for civil partnership pending when it came into force could be converted into applications for marriage.[9][19][20] It was under this provision that the first same-sex marriages took place.[20][21] Beginning six months after the act came into force, new civil partnerships ceased to be available.[22][23] The minister's explanation was:[22]

I have been advised that it would not be constitutional to keep civil partnership available and to open it to opposite-sex couples as this would create a risk of making civil partnership a potential competitor to marriage. All of the advice I have makes it clear that making a marriage-like relationship available would violate the constitutional pledge to "guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded, and to protect it against attack".

The act came into force by ministerial order via statutory instrument rather than automatically upon enactment.[24] Fitzgerald allowed for a delay to enable registrars to ask couples with pending civil partnership registrations whether they wish to marry instead.[25] The Irish Times reported on 31 October that the commencement date would be 16 November.[26] This was confirmed when the order was signed on 10 November.[2][3]


The bill's second reading in Dáil Éireann was introduced by minister Frances Fitzgerald on 23 September 2015, the second day of the autumn session; the previous day's business had been pre-empted by a confidence motion relating to the Fennelly Commission.[27] After the second reading, the bill was referred to the select committee on Justice, Defence and Equality.[28] The committee considered the bill on 30 September and made no amendments,[29] although Michael McNamara gave notice that he would be proposing at report stage to remove the bill's provision ending the granting of civil partnerships.[22] Niall Collins passed on a criticism of the bill's amendment to pension law, which Fitzgerald said would be addressed in a separate "finance and succession Bill".[22] At the report stage on 7 October, two amendments from the minister were accepted,[30] while McNamara's amendment on civil partnership was rejected for the constitutional reasons given by Fitzgerald,[31] and another to allow registration of more solemnisers was rejected as out of scope.[32] The bill immediately passed final stage in the Dáil.[33][34]

The bill was scheduled to be introduced in Seanad Éireann on 15 October,[35] but the day's sitting was cancelled for the state funeral of Garda Tony Golden.[36] The bill was rescheduled for 20 October and passed the second stage the same day.[37][38] Remaining Seanad stages were completed without amendment on 22 October.[39] Jillian van Turnhout's amendment, to remove the power of the courts to allow marriage of persons below the standard marriageable age of 18, was withdrawn as out of scope;[40] David Norris withdrew a pension amendment similar to Michael McNamara's Dáil amendment as a matter for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform;[41] an amendment by Rónán Mullen, intended to ensure religious solemnisers would not be obliged to allow "spouse" as well as "husband" and "wife" to be used in their ceremonies, was opposed by the minister as redundant, and voted down.[42] Mullen was the only Senator to oppose the bill's final stage.[43]

In accordance with the Constitution, the bill was sent to the office of the President of Ireland, who is required to sign it into law between five and seven days after its passage.[44][45] As President Michael D. Higgins was on an official visit to the United States, the bill was actually signed by the Presidential Commission.[46][47] On 10 November 2015, at a ceremony in Dublin Castle, minister Fitzgerald signed the order that would commence the act from 16 November,[2][3] and Joan Burton, the Minister for Social Protection, signed a separate order amending the regulations for civil registration of marriages converted from civil partnerships.[3][48] The first same-sex marriage ceremony was at 8:30 am on 17 November 2015 in Clonmel, County Tipperary.[49]



  • "Draft of General Scheme of Marriage Bill 2015" (PDF). Department of Justice and Equality. 9 March 2015. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  • "Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Act 2015". Irish Statute Book (in Irish and English). Attorney General of Ireland. 29 August 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  • "Marriage Act 2015". Irish Statute Book. Attorney General of Ireland. Oireachtas. 29 October 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  • "Marriage Bill 2015 Explanatory Memorandum" (PDF). Oireachtas. 17 September 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  • "Marriage Bill 2015: Report Stage". Dáil Éireann debates. 7 October 2015. pp. 10–18. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  • "Marriage Bill 2015: Committee and Remaining Stages". Seanad Éireann debates. 22 October 2015. p. 2. Retrieved 23 October 2015.


  1. "2015 Legislation". Ireland: Office of the President. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  2. "Minister Fitzgerald announces Commencement of Marriage Act 2015" (Press release). Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality. 10 November 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  3. McGarry, Patsy (10 November 2015). "Same-sex marriage signed into law by Ministers". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  4. "Marriage laws will be out of step with Constitution". The Irish Times. 26 May 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  5. Bardon, Sarah (29 June 2015). "Same-sex couples may face marriage delay until next year". The Irish Times. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  6. Comyn, Francesca (29 June 2015). "Same-sex marriage likely to be delayed as challenges go to Court of Appeal". Newstalk. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  7. Bardon, Sarah (30 June 2015). "Same-sex marriages won't start until September". The Irish Times. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  8. McGarry, Patsy (1 August 2015). "Same-sex marriage legislation to arrive early next Dáil term". The Irish Times. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  9. "Minister Fitzgerald publishes Marriage Bill 2015". Department of Justice and Equality. 16 September 2015. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  10. Draft of General Scheme of Marriage Bill 2015, Part 2; Marriage Act 2015 sec.4(a)
  11. Draft of General Scheme of Marriage Bill 2015, Head 8; Marriage Act 2015 Part 5
  12. Draft of General Scheme of Marriage Bill 2015, Head 9; Marriage Act 2015 sec.11
  13. "Religious solemnisers will not be obliged to perform same-sex marriage". The Irish Times. 10 March 2015. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  14. Draft of General Scheme of Marriage Bill 2015, Head 7; Marriage Act 2015 Part 3
  15. "Gender Recognition Act 2015, §9(2)(b)". Irish Statute Book. Attorney General's office. 22 July 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  16. Humphreys, Kevin (5 March 2015). "Gender Recognition Bill 2014 [Seanad]: Second Stage". Dáil Éireann debates. Oireachtas. Retrieved 25 July 2015. As Deputies will be aware, the Bill requires that an applicant for gender recognition is single, pending the outcome of the referendum on same-sex marriage that is due to take place in May of this year. I accept that this is not ideal. The existing constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage is a blockage in this respect. I am happy to confirm that my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, has agreed that the marriage Bill, which will be enacted if the referendum is passed by the people, will include provisions to amend this legislation to remove the requirement to be single.
  17. Draft of General Scheme of Marriage Bill 2015, Head 10 (a); Marriage Act 2015 sec.24
  18. Draft of General Scheme of Marriage Bill 2015, Head 3(4); Marriage Act 2015 sec.10 [insertion of sec.59L into the Civil Registration Act 2004]
  19. Ryan, Philip (16 September 2015). "First same-sex marriages could be next month as Cabinet approve bill". Irish Independent. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  20. Bardon, Sarah (16 September 2015). "Same-sex marriage laws to be considered by Cabinet today". The Irish Times. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  21. "Marriage Bill 2015: Committee Stage". Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality proceedings. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  22. Marriage Act 2015 sec.8
  23. Marriage Act 2015 sec.1(2)
  24. Fitzgerald, Frances (23 September 2015). "Marriage Bill 2015: Second Stage". Dáil Éireann debates. p. 11. Retrieved 12 October 2015. I estimate that it should be possible to commence the Bill within a fortnight of its enactment. This brief period is necessary to enable the registrar to contact couples who have civil partnership ceremonies planned to ascertain whether they wish to proceed with a civil partnership or marry instead.
  25. McGarry, Patsy (31 October 2015). "Same-sex marriage will be possible from November". The Irish Times. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  26. "Leaders' Questions in the Dáil". Newstalk. 22 September 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015. A debate on [a Fianna Fáil motion] was due to begin this evening with discussion on the Marriage Bill due beforehand. But last night the government abruptly changed its agenda for the day - and now plans to have the Dáil spend three hours debating a motion of confidence in itself.
  27. "Marriage Bill 2015: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued) / Referral to Select Committee". Dáil Éireann debates. Oireachtas. 23 September 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  28. "Oireachtas committee approves draft Marriage Bill for same-sex marriages". 30 September 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  29. Dáil Éireann debates; Marriage Bill 2015: Report Stage, pp.10–11, p.14
  30. Dáil Éireann debates; Marriage Bill 2015: Report Stage, pp.11–14
  31. Dáil Éireann debates; Marriage Bill 2015: Report Stage, pp.14–16
  32. Dáil Éireann debates; Marriage Bill 2015: Report Stage, pp.16–18
  33. "Marriage equality Bill passes all stages in Dáil". The Irish Times. 7 October 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  34. "12–16 October 2015". This Week in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Oireachtas. October 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  35. Lally, Conor (15 October 2015). "State funeral held for Garda Tony Golden". The Irish Times. Retrieved 16 October 2015. The Dáil and Seanad is [sic] not sitting and the Oireachtas has cancelled all committee meetings for the day as a mark of respect to Garda Golden.
  36. "19–23 October 2015". This Week in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Oireachtas. 16 October 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  37. "Marriage Bill 2015: Second Stage". Seanad Éireann debates. 20 October 2015. p. 2. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  38. Seanad debates; Marriage Bill 2015: Committee and Remaining Stages
  39. Seanad debates; Marriage Bill 2015: Committee Stage: Section 7
  40. Seanad debates; Marriage Bill 2015: Committee Stage: New Section 20
  41. Seanad debates; Marriage Bill 2015: Committee Stage: Section 21
  42. Seanad debates; Marriage Bill 2015: Final stage
  43. "Christmas weddings on cards as marriage law passes - RTÉ News". RTÉ.ie. 22 October 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  44. "Constitution of Ireland". Irish Statute Book. Article 25: Signing and Promulgation of Laws. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  45. Reilly, Gavan (22 October 2015). "VIDEO: Same-sex marriages can begin next month". Today FM. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  46. Sheils McNamee, Michael (29 October 2015). "The Marriage Bill 2015 allowing for same-sex marriage has been signed into law". Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  47. "Tánaiste welcomes commencement of Marriage Act 2015" (Press release). Dublin: Department of Social Protection. 10 November 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  48. Kearns, David (17 November 2015). "Ireland's first same sex marriage takes place in Tipperary". Irish Independent. Retrieved 17 November 2015.