It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for us and I am feelin’ good.
24 hours ago (ish) Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote. I am indescribably proud of this achievement. Make no mistake about it – this was a hugely momentous day not just for the green republic, but for the human race on a global level. This is quite a grand statement, but, frankly, it cannot be overstated and as a blogger, I feel it incumbent upon me to not let this occasion pass by without recognising its importance.
National approval by the people of Ireland of same-sex marriage on the 22nd of May 2015 marks a significant turnaround in Irish mentality and tolerance, which was not so long ago pointed in the extreme opposite direction. Up until 1993, homosexual acts were still criminalised, punishable by a term of imprisonment. A country historically dominated by the influence of the Catholic church and entrenched in religious doctrine, being gay or even entertaining homosexual thoughts was not just sternly looked upon by the people within the towns and cities of Ireland, but rather it was viewed as a deviant behaviour or kind of illness, with many believing it could be “cured”. Utterly unacceptable, people were forced to hide who they were from family and friends, with many living in fear of being found out. That this was allowed to happen within my country until so very, very recently makes me ashamed. I am so sad for all of the people who have had to experience such judgement and persecution. It’s a disgrace and should never have happened.
That is why I wanted to write this post – to acknowledge both the great result of the referendum and also, the devastating historical treatment of gay people in Ireland, which cannot be changed now but has to be recognised nonetheless. It is too tempting to simply celebrate and talk about the wonderful result of yesterday’s vote and forget about the history that preceded it. To do so would be wrong. To do so would be a grave disservice to the gay community in Ireland. These people were let down, they have been wronged on an unfathomable level and they deserved so much better. As with all great historical changes to a nation, it is essential that we acknowledge the wrongs committed in the past, to move forward with positivity and willingness to learn from past mistakes, and above all, an absolute commitment to ensuring that we do not allow any such intolerance or bigotry as a nation and as a people ever again.
It remains to be seen what the reaction of the Catholic church will be to the result of the referendum and this will be an important question going forward for our little island nation given that 95% of the population are Catholic and the significant role of the church in parishes all over the country.
Yesterday represents a massive change in Ireland. But we cannot stop here. More changes will need to be made, not just to our legislation and legal framework but to the minds of the 37% who voted against gay marriage and those who remained unsure, declining to vote.
Yesterday was a proud day. Yesterday was a day for all of the colours of the beautiful rainbow. Yesterday was a new dawn, a new day and I am feeling good.