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Ireland Stands for Equality

A storm had been brewing in the North Atlantic, but as of this weekend the clouds had passed over the Irish Sea. As is common with the nasty storms that come from the roiling sea, the landscape was left forever changed – softened, gentler, and deeply appreciative of the all too rare sun.

The storm that passed over Ireland was the debate on whether to enshrine Marriage Equity in the Constitution, a document that has weathered similar storms in the scant 78 years since it was adopted. This time, however, Ireland was changing not just to catch up with the times but to lead them. It’s worth discussing on both sides of the stormy Atlantic and around the world.

A rally before the election.  Yes.

A rally before the election. Yes.

Ireland, as a nation, is less than a century old. Independence was won through a bloody struggle with the UK and then soaked in the blood of Irish factions fighting for control of the nation. The Irish Constitution, passed in 1937, opens with a preamble that calls for the blessing of the one thing that united and defined the nation:

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,

The Constitution has been modified before to soften this position. A previous clause that guaranteed the “primacy of the Catholic Church” was removed at the same time membership in the European Union was allowed, in 1972. That didn’t mean the nation changed overnight, however. In 1983 a clause outlawing abortion except in rare instances was added. A law prohibiting homosexual relations wasn’t repealed until 1993.

A big Ta!

A big Ta!

On Friday, the 34th Amendment was passed this Saturday and will be added to this document. It states boldly:

Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.

It passed with 62% of the vote in a nation that has previously been united and defined by a rigid adherence to Catholicism. The storm that it rode in on was much milder than anyone anticipated. Ireland became the first nation ever to approve Marriage Equity by popular vote.

That’s not to say that there aren’t going to be ramifications. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said, “We have to stop and have a reality check, not move into denial of the realities. We won’t begin again with a sense of renewal, with a sense of denial.” He didn’t stop there. “I ask myself, most of these young people who voted yes are products of our Catholic school system for 12 years. I’m saying there’s a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the Church.”

What's left of the Church in Ireland now?

What’s left of the Church in Ireland now?

The message of the Church? If you back it up a bit, it’s pretty clear where it has to go. But we can forgive the Archbishop for having a brief lapse of not quite “getting it”. No one could have seen this coming in Ireland, of all places, just a few years ago. The voters who approved this nearly two to one all came from one of the most conservative Christian cultures to be found anywhere in the world. The nation didn’t evolve, it changed overnight. This generation is nothing like their parents.

This is worth noting everywhere because this is going to happen all around the world. Not just with Marriage Equity, either. A world rapidly coming together is a world where those with a vested interest in “the way things are” can easily whip up those who are intimidated by change into a reactionary frenzy. We see it across the US today.

Yet for all the noise, the Republican Party is aging and a new generation isn’t interested in repressive social policies. The older people are simply dying off. One day, probably very soon, there will be a similar moment here when we realize that this simply isn’t the same nation anymore. It might well happen in the next ten years, too.

If it can happen this rapidly in Ireland, it can happen anywhere.

Is it possible to make too much of the storm that passed over the nation and dissolved into bright sunlight. Some of the good people of Ireland might say that the destruction was terrible, unbearable. But it was not. Equity for all is the future regardless of how the trials of the past might have hardened people everywhere.

Ireland is now the unquestioned home of equality. Sláinte!

12 thoughts on “Ireland Stands for Equality

  1. Pingback: A Journey of a Thousand Miles | Brave Little Nib

  2. This was a huge victory & the margin wasn’t even close. I expect other nations will follow the lead now.
    Aren’t most Christian denominations (sp?) now in favor of same sex marriage?

    • I was going to add up all the members of the various Christian faiths and Reform Judaism that have approved marriage equity, but it’s nearly impossible. For one, most allow any given congregation to opt out – so they wouldn’t count. I also don’t trust the net counts of followers in bulk. So I punted on the exercise.
      However, it is entirely possible that a majority of Christians in this nation belong to a church that consecrates all marriages equally. There is certainly a very large number if it isn’t a majority. So the question is a bit moot, IMHO.

  3. That is quite a sea change! I’ve known a lot of Irish and they were all either very VERY catholic or had a strong reaction against the catholic church in response. If that’s what’s going on here than the catholic church is doomed in Ireland. That would be huge.

    • I can’t speak for Ireland, but Irish-Americans do indeed seem to fit into the categories you say. The Church is at least in a difficult spot, as the Archbishop noted.

  4. Let’s hope that in practice it will be accepted by the public as in Theory. In South Africa for example we have one of the most free est constitution in the world but there are many people who are against gay marriages really.

    Otherwise congratulations to Ireland for this.

    • You are absolutely correct that law and practice are always two different things. We have big problems with this in the US as well, especially when it comes to a well armed police force.

  5. Reblogged this on Random Thoughts and commented:
    I too think a change is brewing, here in the US as well.
    Its very understandable that the Archbishop would feel as he does, but to say its “Christian” position is part of the problem of “Church” in general! Jesus was not against anybody, just unjust “religion.”
    Jesus is always for people- all people, all the time.
    I was told years ago a thought about “vintage” cars. People of my generation can like and see value in cars of the 1920-1950’s, but I have no real desire to own one. My sweet spot are the Muscle cars of the 19601-1970’s. As my generation becomes the primary buyers of cars, the prices of those cars we like goes up.
    I think its the same with the values of different generations, as people of a certain age thought’s soften, and a younger generation comes into their own, the world will change. It has to! I hope and pray its for the better of all mankind.
    Remember, to God we are all one, there are no thems’ we are all Us’s.

    • Amen, brother! 🙂 There is a big generational change coming, and it is very much underway. We’ll see it pop up in odd places before it becomes a big wave, but I think we can see it coming generally.

  6. The wave has to come, the world changes rapidly now, there is no choice, I for one love it. I have been called a dreamer…

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