Ireland today became the first nation to legally recognize same-sex marriage through popular vote after 62 percent of ballots marked Yes for a constitutional change.
With only one district of 43 receiving a majority No vote, and over 60 percent of registered voters turning up for the referendum, gay rights activists gathered and then celebrated outside Dublin Castle when the result was announced on Saturday evening (local time).
Marriage between two men or two women will now be recognized with the same legal status as one between opposite sex members, with an amendment implemented in the Irish Constitution:
Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.
The Minister for Health declared how Ireland spoke “with one voice in favour of equality.”
Speaking to Irish broadcaster RTE, Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s first openly gay minister, said, “I appreciate how gay and lesbian men and women feel on this day, that they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live. I think it is a social revolution.”
And then there was one…
The result in the Republic has added pressure on the region in the north of the Emerald Isle. The devolved government of Northern Ireland has so far rejected any intention to introduce legislation. But after today, Northern Ireland is the only part of the British Isles which does not recognize same-sex marriage which could lead to similar issues facing gay partnerships in the US.
A couple from somewhere like Texas relocates somewhere like New York in order to both marry and have it recognized under state laws. Without the same legal rights, or even the label of ‘marriage’ itself, LGBT people often look elsewhere, which in turn affects local economies by removing the custom of an entire demographic. A couple in Belfast or Derry may now look to move to either Ireland, England, Wales or Scotland.
Social revolution at 22!
Twenty other nations have so far legalized gay marriage, but Ireland was, startlingly, the first to do so by popular vote. This is a country where homosexuality was only legalized in 1993, and has a traditionally strong tie to the Vatican, especially in education. Abortion is still illegal here, except when the mother’s life is in jeopardy. It’s no wonder Varadkar declared, “It was not just a referendum, it was more like a social revolution.”
American next month will face a national decision on same-sex marriage through the judicial intervention when the Supreme Court concludes, probably in favor, the matter once and for all.
And like in the US, the issue has been a contentious one across Europe where French President François Hollande and his Socialist Party legalized equal marriage despite a large number of protests across the country. Poland rejected legislation three times, while Slovakia, Croatia and Slovenia had all opposed similar bills over the past few years. Slovenia, however, did finally approve marriage and adoption rights for gay couples earlier this year.
Where popular = equality
Most countries need to get around the subject via political means, but in such a manner the arguments will be left open to question for years to come, especially in the States where the idea of the nuclear family as a pinnacle of American culture has been described as ended.
While over 700,000 people voted against legalization, the Irish people decided for themselves, casting aside the question of political overreach. However, “million-dollar marketing” and social media campaigns which supported the referendum have been criticized by No voters, after action on Twitter called for expats around the globe to journey back home and be counted as Ireland only accepts in-person ballots at Irish polling stations.
Ireland made history “in the privacy of the ballot box,” said Prime Minister Enda Kenny at a news conference. “This decision makes every citizen equal and I believe it will strengthen the institution of marriage.”