The Referendum in the Republic of Ireland on legalising Gay Marriage has resulted in a stunning victory for the Yes campaign, by a margin of nearly 2-1 on a turnout of over 60%. Ireland thus became the first country in the world to introduce gay marriage as a result of direct democracy. A majority voted in favour of protecting the equal rights of a minority.
This victory was all the more remarkable given that Ireland was one of the last countries in western Europe to legalise homosexuality, back in 1993; A full quarter of a century after England. This had been the first breaking of the stranglehold of the Irish Catholic Church over the democracy, whereby what the church declared to be a sin the state declared to be a crime. At that point, for the first time ‘Ta na gays ag teacht abhaile’;the gays were coming home without fear of persecution. Now they can come home and look forward to legal equality.
One middle aged gay man was quoted as saying “I love seeing young people happy and relaxed and not scared the way members of my generation were”
What we must remember is that generations of gay men DID live their lives in fear, denied the most fundamental of human rights; to consensually love whom they chose.
And let us not forget that in the UK prior to 2003, generations of gay men lived their lives in fear of Gross Indecency Laws andtthey are still to be exonerated. And let us not forget those LGBT people in the six countries where homosexuality remains a capital offence,or the seventy or so where it remains a criminal offence. Nor the poor folk in places like Russia, where although legal there is rampant discrimination and people still live their lives in secrecy and fear.
But a generation ago, Ireland was the most backward country in Western Europe on LGBT rights (apart perhaps from Northern Ireland!) Now it is a beacon of hope. As Churchill commented on VE Day in 1945, we can allow ourselves a moment of celebration. But the war is not yet won. There remain many inequalities especially as far as trans people are concerned. But we should celebrate and then continue the battle for full legal and social equality—-in the UK as in Ireland