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article imageIreland may become first to legalize gay marriage by popular vote

By Marcus Hondro     May 17, 2015 in World
Ireland surely is not the country many, if any, would have picked to become the first to legalize gay marriage by a popular vote. Catholic and conservative Ireland? But that is the way things could shake down as the Irish vote on Friday to do just that.
Same-sex marriage by vote
Same-sex marriage is now legal in many countries, such as Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Iceland, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, South Africa, Uruguay and Wales. In the U.S. many states allow same-sex marriage and nine-supreme court justices are expecting to soon rule on same-sex marriage in the country overall.
But those advances in the rights of the LGBT community have come about in the courts or through government legislation, not by a popular vote. But in Ireland, which decriminalized homosexuality only in 1993 (Canada, for example, did so in 1969) 85 percent of its populace still identifies as Catholic, a church very much against same-sex marriage. So yes, a "yes" vote next Friday might surprise many, including the Irish.
Nonetheless the "yes" side appears to have a strong chance of carrying the day. Pat Carey, once the country's Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, now retired, came out as gay just last February at age 67, and he is a leading proponent on the 'yes' side.
He believes the country is ready: "It’s a different era,” Carey said. “There’s a whole new demographic out there that has a vision of an Ireland that’s kinder, more inclusive and more tolerant.”
Government on 'yes' side
The "no" side believes, not surprisingly, that a "yes" vote would be the wrong thing for Ireland. After all, condoms and divorce only became legal in the mid-nineties, which many in Ireland would still quarrel about. The "no" side argues a "yes" vote would be harmful to children, and that each child has the right to a mother and father.
The "yes" side counters that point by noting that the referendum has nothing to do with children having a mother and father, a reality that does not now exist anyway. Further, they point out, already in the country gay couples are legally allowed to adopt children.
The message against same-sex marriage is not being carried as forcefully as that of the message for it. For same-sex marriage there is the government, all political parties, the majority of media and most of Ireland's grass-roots organizations.
On the other side there are conservative organizations and the church. However, beyond sermons and the issuing of pamphlets, the church is not as forceful a participant in the debate as they might have been.
Having in recent Irish history fallen into disfavor over their iron-hand rule over Ireland for so long, many don't want the church telling them what to do anymore, despite continuing to be a part of it. That reality may be the biggest weapon the "yes" side has in its arsenal.
What do the latest polls say? They have the numbers at between 58 and 60 percent "yes" so baring a minor miracle it does indeed appear Ireland is on the verge of creating world history on Friday, May 22nd.
Such a result may not only transform the country's culture and its view of itself, but also transform the view that the rest of the world has of Ireland.
More about ireland and samesex marriage, gay marriage rights, same sex marriage in ireland
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