It's heartening to see that Ireland may well become the first country in the world to legitimize gay marriage via popular vote. Americans could learn from this.
Irish voters turned out in droves to cast ballots in a gay marriage referendum Friday, with the high turnout likely to favor the “yes” side seeking equality just two decades after the country decriminalized homosexuality.
With the once mighty Catholic Church’s influence ravaged by child abuse scandals, opinion polls indicated the proposal would pass by as much as 2-to-1, making Ireland the first country to adopt same-sex marriage via a popular vote.
Gay marriage is backed by all political parties, championed by big employers and endorsed by celebrities, all hoping it will mark a transformation in a country that was long regarded as one of the most socially conservative in Western Europe.
Good for you, Ireland.
There's so much resistance to the idea of gays and lesbians marrying, and it's bizarre that this is so: per an old stat from Andrew Sullivan, homosexuals account for perhaps 3 to 5 percent of any given population, i.e., at most one out of twenty. What huge, disruptive, disastrous social change is going to occur if one person out of twenty is finally allowed to do what the other nineteen can already do?*
I realize, of course, that this is a messy issue. There's a religious dimension that overlaps only partially with the political and moral dimensions. Many contend that government should be out of the marriage business completely, which is a nice thought, but when there are practical issues like inheritance and hospital-visitation rights to consider, the law is inevitably going to have something to say. One could try to limit the term "marriage" to apply only to that ceremony which is performed in a religious context, but people who have gotten married outside the religious context (at a courthouse, say, in a civil ceremony) might have dissenting opinions about that. The lesson I take from Ireland, though, is that, little by little, gay marriage is gaining acceptance, whether you view it as a legal matter, a moral matter, or a religious matter. As Reverend Donald Sensing noted long ago, the battle against gay marriage has, essentially, already been lost: there's little left but for the tidal momentum to carry gay marriage forward to full fruition. And I think we'll all discover that, once fruition is achieved, not much about our culture and society will have changed.
*I know social conservatives who argue that gays have a disproportionate influence on the culture because they're overrepresented in the media. I'd agree that gays are indeed overrepresented, but I don't think that's at all relevant to the deeper question of how legitimizing gay marriage will deeply affect the culture. The private fear of many such conservatives is an irrational one: that people can somehow be persuaded to "go gay," as if homosexuality were simultaneously a choice and a communicable disease. We've been over that particular argument too many times for me to rehash it here.