Ireland votes on Marriage Equality May 22nd, 2015. That vote on same-sex marriage will result in adding one line to the Irish Constitution: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex,” Fintan O’Toole reports. And he reports in the New York Times OP-ED that there is every reason to believe this will pass in spite of the opposition of the Catholic Church and Presbyterian churches. A public opinion survey indicated 70% in favor of marriage equality law passing on Friday.
While the article speaks of the history of attributing “gross indecency” in a 1922 statute, as the prior standing of homosexuals in Ireland, this change to legal sanction of gay marriage is new ground. Granted, Ireland changed their policies around putting homosexuals in jail with the European Court of Human Rights in 1993. But essentially Ireland, the author states, is the last Western democracy to “decriminalize consensual sexual activity between gay men,” but may break ground with the election on May 22nd to sexual equality for Ireland. Contraceptives were legalized in 1985, and divorce in 1995 but Ireland has rigidly maintained restrictive abortion laws with no exceptions. By voting this Friday for same sex marriage, “Ireland may be the first country to grant same sex couples full legal equality by direct popular vote,” O’Toole states the irony pointedly.
O’Toole describes a couple of significant reasons why Ireland is making the changes it has: the first being that the catholic church being exposed for the decades of child abuse has lost “its moral authority.” Then even with the views of the church toward gay men and gay women, because of the Pope’s views that expressed “conciliatory tone toward homosexuality, ” the hold on the public view by the church has lost ground. However most essentially-O’Toole states- that once people came out, they were not “them” but “us.” They were our sons, our daughters, our nieces, our nephews, our next door neighbors-people we know and care about. We choose to love and respect those people and that directly challenges our understanding of the world and changes over time our judgments.
If Ireland by voting YES to same- sex marriage on May 22nd wins the vote, Ireland will be the first country to give legal status to marriage equality even as it maintains restrictions on women’s rights. Women are a large part of how it is that the same sex marriage vote is happening O’Toole states, because it is the “Mothers who count in this debate.” Mothers, like Mary McAleese-the former President of Ireland and practicing Roman Catholiic who joined her gay son Justin to campaign for the “YES” vote. McAleese refers to the 1916 proclamation of the Irish Republic that stated her desire: “that the children of the nation be cherished equally.” Equality in who they love and how they choose to express that love is perhaps the feeling and expression of many mothers who support their gay children-certainly in many of our own families, we know that love.
All eyes on Ireland leading with the potential of being establishing the first country wide law providing marriage equality. Last to come to the table of women’s equality, but first in marriage equality- leading with the heart and the soul of its people .