The people of Ireland are getting ready to vote on whether to allow equal marriage on Friday 22 May. As our guest writer Tadhg O’Brien wrote at the end of April, although opinion polls so far have put the Yes vote well ahead, somepeople are nevertheless worried that many people may vote No – if only to send a sign to the current government that they disapprove of their record in office so far.

Yes Equality: The Campaign for Civil Marriage Equality, the independent nationwide civic society campaign working to secure a Yes vote in the Marriage Equality Referendum, has been established by the Gay & Lesbian Equality Network, Marriage Equality and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, which have been working for equality for LGBT people in Ireland for many years.

Everyone registered to vote in the republic will get the chance to decide whether to insert a new sentence into the Constitution – ‘Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex’ – and, says the Yes Equality Campaign, ‘is about giving equal rights to equal citizens.’

As it currently stands, lesbian and gay couples cannot get married and do not have equal status under the Constitution. The amendment will guarantee constitutional equality for lesbian and gay citizens.

Referring to the Mothers & Fathers Matter campaign for a No vote, a spokesman told So So Gay: ‘People should be able to marry the person they love. Mothers and fathers want all of their children to grow up in a country where they can have the same aspirations in life. The parents of gay and lesbian children want the same. Nobody wants second best for their child.’

He added that a Yes vote will strengthen marriage without interfering with anyone’s rights: ‘Marriage matters to Irish society, it is the secure foundation for loving committed couples, and everyone in our families. A Yes vote will open these protections to lesbian and gay couples, and will strengthen marriage without interfering with anyone’s rights. We are calling for a yes vote because we value marriage, we value family. We are the family values campaign.’

The Constitution protects the rights of married people, but, at present, not the rights of people in civil partnerships. The referendum is about giving equal rights to equal citizens, but the key difference gets to the heart of the matter: as he says, ‘civil partnerships are not equal. Gay or lesbian couples are not viewed as a family in a society where the family is treasured and considered the foundation of society.’

Voting yes in the Marriage Equality Referendum will be saying yes to marriage, yes to equality and yes to strengthening Irish society.