Well, it’s happened, and it puts the lie to all the right-wing nuts who wanted this issue submitted to “the people,” content that the people would never approve marriage equality. Now they have, resoundingly, and the world cheers.
It is unclear, however, that the Irish lead can be followed by any of the states of this union. We don’t know. All we do know is that the states of this union have been under the gun from courts at various levels and not really free to vote their deep desires. I guess we’ll see in late June and early July, when the Court announces its opinion and the rest of the country is left to deal with it, gracefully—or clumsily and full of fear.
Check out this article by Donny Mahony in Politico. Mahony is Politico’s American correspondent in Ireland. There has been some good writing on the web since Thursday. People seemed surprised that it was Ireland, and they reach down deep to discover meaning. Mahony quotes what David Norris, the long-time Irish LGBTQ political activist said after the vote was announced. “This is a resounding statement, a statement to the entire world. This is the way forward. Because this is the Irish people speaking. It’s not a court, it’s not a government. This is the people themselves welcoming gay people into the Irish family. It is a great day to be Irish.” It is also a great day to be gay, anywhere around the world. The Irish showed us that it can be done—the people, in their great numbers of them, have been persuaded to claim kinship with gay folk, and we have become members of the family.
Mahony says, “For gay rights campaigners, it was a time to remember those who had no choice but to leave Ireland because of their sexuality, and those who did not have the opportunity to see this day.”
Norris has the same thought. “One thing I’m reminded of on this wonderfully positive day is the many people I knew or knew of who sadly took their own lives because they were made so unhappy. I remember this day and I wish [this] day had been there for them.”
Watching the tube at home, here in Boston, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I couldn’t help but be moved by that aspect of the Irish people’s vote. I remembered people I have known well who loved and grew old and died without the chance to consider the question of marriage. Men and women who were HIV+ and died, a school teacher in Columbia, South Carolina, who killed himself, and my cousin Sarah whose relationship with another woman was only ended after forty years by her death from cancer, who had no chance to marry. I remember Steve and Tim and Richard and Kevin, men, our friends, who might have married—or might not have if they had had the choice—but who should have had the option. They were cheated.
Welcoming gay men and lesbians into the Irish family. I hope everybody is ready for what’s to come. The “Irish family” is never going to be the same—less “priest-ridden,” in James Joyce’s words, but I would suppose more loving. Those who oppose these events are right about this. We’re going to change the institution. That’s appropriate, because, as I said in my last post, John Donne reminds us that everything under the moon changes. Everything. Always. Everywhere.