More by chance than deliberation, I found myself on holiday in Ireland this May and driving across the country from Wexford to Kerry on the day that the country went to the polls to vote YES or NO on the subject of gay marriage – more formally known as proposed modification 34 to the Constitution, which would “permit marriage to be contracted by two persons without distinction as to their sex”.
As we drove west across seven counties, we saw campaign posters on walls, lamp posts and telegraph poles – and the majority of them were proclaiming NO.
NO to modifying the Constitution; NO to challenging centuries of Church based teachings on what constitutes marriage; NO to welcoming in a new and open-minded era of love and tolerance.
The NO campaign (who also dominated the radio airwaves, however much we jumped around on the dial, spouting messages of hate on Irish talk radio) had clearly spent a fortune on their poster campaign and this image featured heavily.
(The back story behind its use is also a telling lesson as to the law of unintended consequences regarding the price tag attached to gaining “free” photos of you and your family …)
Thankfully, we started to see more and more YES posters as we drove further west – here’s me with the one near our holiday cottage in Co Kerry. And the following day, as we now know, Ireland overwhelmingly voted YES – and the Irish constitution and the world changed forever.
I’ll admit now to having, as my former boss used to say, some skin in this game. I’m half Irish, I lived there as a child and have spent innumerate holidays there throughout my life. I also come from a comedically large, extended family (my father is one of six children, his father was one of nine) and I know of at least three members of that tribe who are/were gay. Only the youngest cousin of that group was ever officially out – and she was very much in my mind as we followed the breaking news and election updates on RTE.
(Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny made this statement on the day that the successful YES vote was announced – such wonderful, uplifting words:
“With today’s Yes vote we have disclosed who we are – a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people. The referendum was about inclusiveness and equality, about love and commitment being enshrined in the constitution. The people have spoken. They have said yes. Ireland – thank you.”
And now, as of 16th November 2015, the first couples to marry as a result of this historic vote and modification 34, have done so – much love, luck and congratulations to them all.
Bravo, Ireland: now let’s see similar legislation come in north of the border, so that the wonderful wedding like the one I attended in Belfast at the end of November can be an option for all couples, not just straight ones.