Holy crap you actually did it. In the final moments of voting on Friday, it was easy to let the fear kick in. Fear that logic, rational thought and common sense might not win out. Fear that the clock would be wound back on Ireland’s progress to acceptance. Waking up on Saturday morning to the early news that the ammendment looked set to pass, it was hard not to feel a little overwhelmed.
22 years ago it was a crime to be a homosexual in this country. 22. I was born in 1988. I grew up in an Ireland where, had I been born gay, I would have been deemed a law breaker for the first five years of my life. Today, after an overwhelming majority vote, the constitution has been amended to state that regardless of your sexuality, you are seen as an equal with regards to marriage in Ireland. That is just a staggering leap forward for a country that is such a short time out of the dark ages.
What happened with this referendum is that sixty two per cent of the country outright proclaimed that they accept gay persons on equal footing to straight, but that isn’t to say that the thirty eight per cent in opposition said exactly the opposite. Pre-voting u will admit that I took the stable of ardent Yes campaigner. I would never condemn somebody for opposing my view, but you can be sure I will argue a little dirty. Now that the vote has passed maybe we can dial back the dramatics a little – if you voted no then credit to you. There was really only one reason to vote yes, there were dozens to vote no. I’ll admit that I feel most of those reasons were ludicrous, but some were valid and that’s exactly how referendums work guys. But to all of those who simply voted no, without all the hyperbolic nonsense and unfathomable unfounded vitriol, you are welcome to the party. Opinions are there to be had and simply because somebody is opposed to the marriage equality alteration doesn’t mean that they are a homophobe and must now be avoided on the street. And for the love of God please lay off Roscommon and South Leitrim, theirs was a count as close as any other, it just happened to sway the other direction.
Promises have been made that the marriage equality act will be brought into legislation this July. Yes we do have to remember that the referendum only made it possible, once it has been legislated then the unions can commerce. But the battle is won, Ireland is one step closer to immersing itself in the 21st century, arguably this is the biggest step on that road. The knock on effects will be felt of course, this is a particularly middling time for the Catholic Church, but the right decision has been made. In my life, few things outside of sport have made me feel genuinely proud to be Irish, but watching one particular girl interviewed on RTE at Dublin Castle say she now feels accepted, that this referendum has finally let her feel the freedom to be herself, was an incredible moment to me. The decriminalisation of homosexuality maybe saw us take the rights of gay people for granted. To my mind, Ireland post-1993 has been a much more hospitable place for all walks of life than it was before. What has become evident since Saturday is that there was a massive piece missing, and now it has been found. Céad míle fàilte indeed.