Before the break, I was making the point about the movement that developed, in reality from below, in the course of the referendum campaign, but also before the referendum campaign, for marriage equality, but also for LGBTQ rights generally and an end to homophobia. A reflection of that was the very significant numbers who registered to vote in the run-up to the referendum who were likely to have voted overwhelmingly "Yes". Some 66,000 citizens registered. Another striking example was the home-to-vote movement, meme, etc. of overwhelming numbers of young people who had emigrated coming home to vote to strike a blow for a different sort of Ireland, an Ireland of equality. This was also manifested by the registration drives that took place in universities and colleges, and by those queuing at local authority offices to be part of a push for equality in this State.
In particular, I want to mention the area of Jobstown in my constituency, an area vilified by some, which had an 87% "Yes" vote. There were similar high turnouts and very significant "Ye"s votes right across Tallaght. It is a reflection of the movement that happened, in particular in working class communities, to mobilise for this referendum and to turn out to vote in very significant numbers.
I note the Bill contains a welcome change to the gender recognition legislation allowing married trans people to access official recognition of their gender. I welcome that provision which will make a real difference to the lives of trans people who will be able to gain access to and use the correct documents.
Unfortunately, despite the significant differences that marriage rights will make to the lives of many, LGBTQ people will not enjoy full equality after this Bill comes into effect. Regardless of the day-to-day discrimination and oppression that people can still experience, side by side with that still goes the legal difference -in reality, legal discrimination - between LGBTQ people and heterosexual people. We know that section 37 means LGBTQ employees, such as teachers and nurses, can be discriminated against and fired from religious-run institutions. The Bill we brought to end this legal discrimination and which passed Second Stage has not been progressed any further and, unfortunately, even the Labour Party Bill, which may not fully protect those workers, seems to be of a low priority on the legislative schedule. My party thinks a priority should be made of it immediately. It is part of what the movement is about. We also know that gay and bisexual men are banned for life from donating blood while those who have had sex with someone who was HIV positive only have a one-year ban.
These are some of the immediate legal barriers to real equality that should be removed through action by the Government and Dáil as a step towards full equality.
Other issues are posed and there are questions of referendums that are necessary to create a genuinely equal Ireland, including divorce. Just as people should have the right to marry whomever they want, they should be easily able to access divorce. Unfortunately, we will need a constitutional referendum to enable people to do so, given that the incredibly restrictive situation that exists and the difficulties people have in accessing divorce, which do not exist in many other states, are written into our Constitution. This issue can come onto the agenda.
The major issue that will rightly be present in the political debate will be seen this Saturday when many who fought, mobilised and voted for marriage equality will join the march for choice at 2 p.m. at the Garden of Remembrance, calling for another referendum to repeal the eighth amendment to the Constitution so that 4,000 women are not forced to travel abroad every year to access the abortion services they need. People will have seen the front page headline in yesterday's Irish Examiner which showed a clear majority of farmers in favour of repeal of the eighth amendment. It is a sign of how much things have changed. We clearly have a massive majority in favour of repeal of the eighth amendment and no longer are the Government and establishment political parties able to hide behind a supposedly conservative social majority as an excuse for failing to take action on these barbaric, backward laws. We need action on it now. This is what people are demanding and we will be fighting for it. Those people will continue to fight for full LGBTQ equality, both legally and socially. Although attitudes have changed much due to that movement from below, much more needs to be done, and the Anti-Austerity Alliance will be part of it.