While the Supreme Court of the United States is trying to decide its landmark gay marriage case, another country is putting its decision in the hands of voters. Ireland, whose laws were once heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, may now become the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular-vote.
Ireland’s voters are being asked to approve the following statement: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” If a majority votes “yes” the country’s constitution will be changed to allow gay and lesbian couples to be married in civil ceremonies, but it does not force the church to allow church weddings.
Opinion polls predict that the measure will pass by a two-to-one margin and say the outcome may depend on the youth vote. As the equality campaign gained momentum, tens of thousands of young men and women registered to vote. It’s quite a change for a country who criminalized gay sex until 1993. Irish national broadcaster RTE estimated that the voter turnout in Dublin would be as much as sixty percent. That’s almost double the United States’ pathetic 34 percent voter turnout for the 2014 midterm election.
I asked Patrick Merrigan, a Dublin resident and good friend, why he voted “yes” today and he said,”It was for equality basically, in a nutshell, I can’t in all conscience deny anyone their basic rights.”
The worldwide movement for equality has gained a massive following over the last decade; Ireland will become the eighteenth country to allow LGBT couples to marry if the referendum is passed.
Think about this: If Ireland votes to change their constitution, the country which many would’ve called a theocracy not too long ago, one which only legalized divorce in 1995, will have beat the “free” United States in the fight for equality. If that isn’t proof that the Republican Party is dragging us backwards, I don’t know what is.
Polls in Ireland close at 10 p.m. BST and the results will be tallied by Saturday morning.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.