Earlier this year Ireland held and passed what would soon become an absolutely historic and globally influential referendum. On 22nd May the people of Ireland went to the polls and overwhelmingly voted in favour of the legalisation of same sex marriage. Cementing Ireland as the first country ever to legalise same sex marriage by popular vote.
The Irish Presidential Commission, acting on behalf of President Michael Higgins, signed the Marriage Act 2015 into law on Thursday, meaning that same-sex couples can now be legally married in the Republic.
The proposal that ‘marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex’, was supported and approved by all leading political parties in Ireland, the Government and over sixty two percent of the countries voters. The support was recognised globally, and with massive international media coverage, Irish citizens from every corner of the globe felt the desire to return home to Ireland and have their voice heard on such an important subject.
This victory for the LGBTI+ community and those who support it, is testament to a global shift in attitudes towards marriage and it is clear the younger generation are leading this change. The countries capital, Dublin, is one of the youngest cities in Europe with over fifty percent of its population under thirty.
This powerful statement about marriage, a practice often said to be holy and synonymous with religion, shows not only our religious leaders, but also the world, that Ireland does have an appreciation and acceptance of LGBTI+ people. People can, and will push for peace and tolerance for their generation and those thereafter. We can all thank the universe that the past is gone forever and new solutions for younger generations are beginning to be presented and carried through.
Since then other countries have taken note and are adding their voice to the support of same sex marriage. Following the Irish vote, the United States and Finland have both recognised it, Scotland supported it in 2014, and the Netherlands was the first country in recent history to recognise it, way back in 2001. However, history indicates that the Chinese and the Romans have been doing it for centuries before us… After all, Nero was allegedly the first Roman Emperor to marry a man!
So what is next for Ireland’s LGBTI+ community? Marriage equality is incredible but it does not solve all of Irelands LGBTI+ related issues. Under section 37 of the Irish Employment Equality Act, religious run schools are exempt from discrimination legislation. Many LGBTI+ teachers, or those perceived to be LGBTI+ lose their jobs. Any man who has had sex with another man is banned from donating blood. There is no hate crime legislation in Ireland, resulting in serious under reporting and Irish law does not yet formally acknowledge the existence of transgender citizens.
Passing marriage equality by popular vote is a major step in the right direction, but it’s clear that its’s only a small step on the road to absolute freedom for all of Ireland. There is still so much more for Ireland to move forward with. You created history here Ireland, but what now? The world is watching.