Next week will see a historic vote on same-sex marriage recognition in Ireland, the first of its kind in the world. Same-sex marriage recognition has so far been granted without the need for an electorate vote, and while polls indicate a potential Yes victory, there is an underlying sense of dread by Irish voters that this referendum will not pass.
I was completely oblivious to this referendum until an Irish colleague of mine asked me join her for a photo in support of same-sex marriages. I immediately said yes, mainly because I firmly support equal rights, and also because I did bore this woman to tears with my ongoing venting and banter regarding Malta’s recent spring hunting referendum (forgive me Anna!).
In any case, I do not think that such a choice should be presented through a referendum. While I am not familiar with anything involving Irish politics, this vote echoes the Malta divorce referendum witnessed in 2011. A scared government that would much rather have its people taking decisions for it, and an often bitter debate between the church and state, and the old and young.
I firmly disagreed with Malta’s divorce referendum in principle – why should the majority decide on what other people choose to do? It is the same way I am viewing this referendum in Ireland – why is it that the majority will get to decide if a man wants to call another man his husband, or a woman wants to call another woman her wife? This is 2015, love is love so just get over it already!
The main Irish political parties have already stated that they support the ‘Yes’ vote, so they should just get on with it and change the constitution! But Ireland is a Catholic country, and no politicians wants to enrage rosary bead swinging pensioners when they account for a large percentage of the electorate (sounds familiar fellow Maltese?).
Ireland has made long strides in its equal rights recognition. This vote comes nearly twenty two years after homosexuality was decriminalised and more than four years after the Irish Government ratified a Civil Partnership Bill. One of the biggest challenges the ‘Yes’ Camp is facing is mobilising the youth to vote. The fact that a large proportion of young Irish people emigrated following the country’s recession does not help the situation. Additionally, Irish people working abroad cannot vote in their country through overseas voting means, as these are limited to exceptional cases.
So if you do happen to know any Irish people that will be in Ireland on the 22nd of May, do your bit and ask them to consider voting Yes! In any case, I do hope that the outcome will be a positive one for the Irish LGBTI community, and that Malta will follow suit!
Malta included the Civil Union Act into its constitution in 2014, but same-sex marriage recognition remains an elusive concept. However, should a referendum be called similar to one taking place in Ireland next week, it would not be a positive one. A 2012 survey found that an absolute majority of 51.2% is opposed to the introduction of same-sex marriages while 42% agree with it. There is a pattern here though that is comparable to the current situation in Ireland, where the majority of young people in Malta (around 60%) support gay marriage, while only 23% of the conservative older generation approve.
Furthermore, I’m done with referenda. Seriously, as much as I love voting, once every year for the past four years is a bit tedious!
Ádh mór Éire!