The Pluck of the Irish
(Pluck, noun. Courage or resolution in the face of difficulties.)
The Republic of Ireland is set to have a popular vote on Friday, May 22, to change their constitution to allow for same sex marriage. The referendum that would change the Irish Constitution states, Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex. By the time this issue of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth hits the stands, we should know whether or not it has been approved. It is remarkable that this issue is even on the ballot for a vote by the Irish citizenry. In order to understand the significance of this vote, just consider the demographics at play. The Republic of Ireland is about the size of the state of Indiana, has a population of 4.5 million people, and is predominantly Roman Catholic in faith. Around 87% of the Irish populace is Catholic. The Roman Catholic Church has made known its position against same sex marriage. However, this vote reveals how far the Church has fallen in dictating the lives and livelihood of Ireland.
As in the United States, there are very active and outspoken proponents and opponents of same sex marriage. According to Griff White, a writer for the Washington Post, there is a tremendous amount of support for this referendum. Beyond the Catholic Church, there is little opposition to the measure within the Irish government. The government backs a yes vote, as do all the significant political parties, the major media organizations and unions and business groups. The yes campaign has also won support from sports stars and even dissident clerics. In January, a Dublin priest announced during a Saturday night mass that he supported the referendum and that he is gay. His congregants gave him a standing ovation.
As might be expected, this issue will not go to the polls unopposed. There is no more passionate voice against same sex marriage than that of the Church. In this case, it is the Roman Catholic Church. The focal point has been on the interests of the children and a drastic change from the definition of family being comprised of a mother, father, and children. Bishop Denis Nulty, President of Acord (Irelands’ Catholic marriage care service), recently stated, The sacrament of marriage reflects the Union between Christ and the Church. One woman, one man united in Christ in faithful love. No law or referendum can alter the true nature and meaning of marriage. It is of vital importance to society that the definition of marriage is protected, sustained, and supported.
One of the leading opponents of same sex marriage in Ireland is the group Mothers and Fathers Matter (MFM). They have launched an extensive media campaign to encourage people to vote NO to the referendum. Prominent in their ads is an adorable picture of a male and female kissing the cheeks of an infant. The tag line is, Children Deserve a Mother and a Father. This is a stock photo that MFM chose for their ads. Interestingly, the couple in the photo have made it known that they object to the use of their photo for this purpose, as they support same sex marriage. MFM does not plan to change their ad.
It is difficult to say what effect this vote may have on the subject of same sex marriage in the United States, if any. As the Supreme Court prepares for its ruling at the end of June, the issue is as divisive here as anywhere. One of the Justices made the case in court that there is little justification for approval of same sex marriage, as there are so few countries around the globe that have approved same sex marriage. With Ireland set to go on record as changing their Constitution to allow for it, that argument begins to unravel. However, we know all too well that the Supreme Court will make their ruling independent of the vote in Ireland.
Eric Zorn, a writer for the Chicago Tribune, penned a fascinating editorial recently, in which he made the case for a 9-0 Supreme Court ruling in favor of same sex marriage. Zorn writes, A 9-0 ruling tells America “move on, this issue is settled.” It enhances the legitimacy of the decision and, therefore, of the court itself while minimizing the potential for backlash. Justices are keenly aware of their legacies and the judgment of posterity. They know that if they don’t find some narrow or highly technical grounds on which to base a grudging concurrence, that judgment will be harsh. And that yet another explosion of feckless, obstructionist sanctimony will only leave its toxic residue on them.
I honestly cannot understand anyone’s opposition to same sex marriage. Allowing two people who love each other, regardless of their gender, to bind their love in lifelong commitment can only heighten the value of the institution of marriage. There are plenty of heterosexual marriages that mock the sanctity of marriage. Celebrity weddings, marriages of convenience or citizenship all leave their trail of disingenuousness on marriage. All I want to know is—do you really love each other?