Ireland celebrates marriage equality: 'We want to be seen as equal'

Celebrations and street parties broke out across Ireland after the success of the May 22 referendum to legalise same-sex marriages.

“Same-sex couples could be married in Ireland by the end of the year after a referendum described as a 'social revolution' solidly backed equal rights,” the Morning Star said on May 25.

Ireland was the first nation to put the issue of marriage equality to a popular vote, with the success of the “Yes” vote making it the 20th nation to legalise same-sex marriages.

About 1.2 million people (or 62%) out of the almost 2 million cast voted in favour, with almost two million votes cast.

At 61%, the voter turn out was one of the highest-ever for a referendum in Ireland, Irish Republican News said. In the last referendum, two years ago, only 39% voted nationally in an unsuccessful bid to abolish the upper house of the Dublin parliament.

IRN said: “In a state where homophobia has been the norm — homosexuality remained illegal until 1993, and gay men were often forced to join the priesthood — the result marks a significant 'coming out' for Ireland’s LGBT community.

“It was also a stunning success for the Yes campaign, largely funded by Irish-American billionaire Chuck Feeney, and opposed by only two of Ireland’s 166 members of parliament.”

It marks a big defeat for the traditionally dominant Catholic Church, which opposed the measure. The Church has been badly hit in recent years by a string of scandals over child abuse.

The IRN said: “Although officially against the measure, the Catholic Church in Ireland took a low-key approach to the referendum, partly due to some support within the church itself.

“In January, a Dublin priest announced during a Saturday night Mass that he supported the referendum and that he is gay. His congregants gave him a standing ovation.”

The IRN said the “most dramatic support” for the “yes” vote came from But the most dramatic support on Friday came from an unexpected source: Irish emigrants.

“Under Ireland’s controversial electoral laws, Irish citizens are only allowed to vote for 18 months after they move abroad, and must travel back to Ireland to cast their ballot.

“The journey home to cast their vote became an emotional homecoming for many and there were renewed demands for the Dublin government to legislate for a postal vote for emigrants.

“Joey Kavanagh, who organised a bus-and-ferry journey from London, said he and about 50 others made the eight-hour journey back to Dublin. He said he had been 'genuinely overwhelmed' by the scale and the scope of the 'Home to Vote' movement.

“Cormac O’Sullivan, a 34-year-old humanitarian aid worker, flew home from Nairobi to Cork to vote. 'Equality for the LGBTQ community has been something my family has always supported,' he said.

“Siomha Brock, a 27-year-old musician from County Clare, travelled back from Vancouver. 'It’s more than just about marriage; it is an opportunity to open our arms to the LGBT community,' she said. 'My partner and I want to be seen as equal in our home country.'

“Scenes of returning emigrants filling Dublin airport had an electric effect on Yes campaigners on polling day. Author Colm O’Regan tweeted that it was like a scene from The Hobbit: 'An army of elves you’d forgotten from earlier in the film arrive over a hill.'

“Some said they hoped that the end of official discrimination against gays and lesbians would mark the end of the overbearing influence on government policy of the scandal-plagued Catholic Church.

“It's a different era,' said Pat Carey, a former government minister who came out as gay in February, at age 67, and who campaigned for a Yes vote. 'There’s a whole new demographic out there that has a vision of an Ireland that’s kinder, more inclusive and more tolerant.'

“Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the referendum had 'brought the issues of inclusion and equality to the fore of public discourse in a very positive way'.”

Adams said: “It was a good day for equality and a good day for Ireland. Irish people have demonstrated that we are a decent, tolerant and compassionate people.”

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