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The Path to Marriage Equality in Ireland: A Case Study

Resource type: Case Study

Susan Parker |

This case study tells the story behind the campaign that resulted in Ireland becoming the first country in the world to approve marriage equality by popular vote. It describes the factors contributing to the May 2015 achievement, including how two competing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations overcame long-standing rancor to work together and how a little-used approach to citizen participation provided a surprising boost to advocates. The report also discusses the tactics that organizers used to move hearts and minds, the challenges that the campaign faced, and how the organizers addressed those struggles.

While the case focuses on the Irish referendum, the lessons from the campaign can inform other advocates working to ensure human rights. Additionally, the case includes what the referendum architects believe are the most important take-home lessons for other advocates.

About Atlantic’s Funding for LGBT Rights

From 2004 to 2012, The Atlantic Philanthropies invested more than €63 million to advance human rights 
in Ireland, including those of LGBT people. Atlantic’s support helped strengthen and expand the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) and Marriage Equality (and its predecessor), two organizations that laid the groundwork for passage of a civil partnership law in 2010. Atlantic did not provide any funding for the 2015 referendum campaign.

Atlantic commissioned this case study to tell the story of this landmark achievement as a companion to an earlier case study on the passage of the civil partnership law.

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Related Resources


Human Rights & Reconciliation, LGBT

Global Impact:

Republic of Ireland


LGBT, marriage equality