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Good job America. The Irish have now passed you in civil rights.

Ireland appeared poised on Saturday to become the world’s first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, with early vote counts showing strong and broad support for a measure that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago in what traditionally had been a Roman Catholic stronghold.

Not long after counting began at Dublin Castle, a government complex that was once the epicenter of British rule, the leader of the opposition, David Quinn, the director of the Iona Institute, conceded the outcome in a tweet: “Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done.”

Both proponents and opponents said the only remaining question was the size of the victory for approval. Ronan Mullen, an Irish senator and one of only a few politicians to oppose the measure, predicted the win would be “substantial.” The official results will be announced Saturday afternoon.

The referendum changes Ireland’s Constitution so that marriages between two people would be legal “without distinction as to their sex.”

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  • KmCO

    As an Irish-American, I am proud and pleased indeed.

    • Kathleen

      Same here! And pleasantly surprised. Ireland has indeed come a long way.

    • Mike G

      A big turnaround considering divorce was only legalized in 1993.

      • MAJeff

        That’s the year homosexuality was decriminalized in Ireland.

        Keep in mind that SCOTUS only did so in the US in 2003. Sure, only 13 states still had anti-sodomy laws at the time, but the 1986 Hardwick decision did place us on pretty reprehensible grounds.

        Hell, Ireland’s decriminalization of homosexuality pre-dated Romer v Evans by three years.

  • Joe_JP

    It’s a great thing but in about a month in all likelihood same sex marriage will be — free from legislative override — a constitutional right in this country. So this dig at America (where SSM is already in place now for a majority of the population) is silly.

    Oh, and the efforts in this country along with others in promotion of same sex equality probably was an influence on the change here. Sometimes, we export good stuff. Thanks America.

    • Given that about 15 other nations already have same-sex marriage, let’s not assume it’s the U.S. that is leading the way here.

      • Vance Maverick

        Being large and influential means the US can be both ahead of and behind the times on an issue, for a long while. Ireland has come an amazingly long way in recent decades (everyone points out that divorce was legalized in 1995).

      • Shakezula

        Such is the power of American Exceptionalism that patchwork legalization here created quantum ripples that traveled backwards in time and caused other countries to apparently legalize it first.

        See also the U.S.’s decision to allow queer people to openly serve in the military. So Ireland may owe us TWICE.

        • Joe_JP

          Are there some interesting articles about how the U.S. itself “created” the ripples here? My comment that it was an “influence with others” not being that.

          • Origami Isopod

            Yeah, except for where you said, “Sometimes, we export good stuff. Thanks America.” That goes a bit beyond mere influence.

            • Joe_JP

              It might if you take away the rest and interpret it strictly so that influence cannot be a form of “exporting.’

          • Shakezula

            Except it makes more sense if you make an assertion and you back it up.

            So if you want to say America’s halting, patchwork approach to equal marriage has exported nationwide equal marriage to other nations, it might help to have a few interesting articles of your own.

      • cleek

        about 15 other nations already have same-sex marriage,

        along with 36 States in the US.

      • Drew

        Gay marriage was allowed within the borders of the United States well before it was in Ireland or most of the other places it’s allowed now.

        • Lee Rudolph

          “Was allowed”, for the most part, in ways other than by winning a majority of votes in a national referendum. I think that’s a significant difference; you may not.

          • Shakezula

            I live in a state where equal marriage was legalized twice because passage by the legislature wasn’t good enough, it had to be the Will of the People. That meant SS couples who got married after legislative passage had to wait and worry that their marriage would remain legally valid.

            And of course, state-by-state legalization creates a huge number of problems and restrictions for same sex couples that OS couples don’t experience.

            So hell yeah it makes a difference.

          • Linnaeus

            Good point – in most states where same-sex marriage is legal, it was by a state or federal court decision.

          • Drew

            No, I don’t think it’s a significant difference in terms of measuring cultural acceptance/level of enlightenment, because we don’t have national referenda. A majority of the American public supports gay marriage, and gay couples could get married in the United States more than a decade before Ireland. Just because we have longer to go to get universal marriage equality in the United States doesn’t erase the gains that have been made, and I would rather be happy about Ireland than turn it into yet another attack on the strawman version of the United States.

            • Lee Rudolph

              A majority of the American public supports gay marriage

              Does a majority of the American public in every single polling district (bar possibly one) support gay marriage?

      • Amanda in the South Bay

        New York legalized SSM three years before Wales, Scotland and England. I’m sure there are lots more examples of states legalizing SSM before certain other countries did as well.

    • DrS

      By that logic, the civil rights era was unneeded.

      • Joe_JP


    • Ronan

      I think there’s something to that. In the case of Ireland specifically, American movements have had an effect on irish politics in the past (the main example is the Civil rights movement, which quite substantially inspired a lot of the rhetoric and action of the Civil Rights movement in the North in the 60s. But so did the european protests of 68)

      • CD

        You could make an argument that specific protest movements in the United States had a global influence, either through their example or their theory. (Even there, it would be nice to have some evidence and argument and not just assertion.) But to generalize those movements up to “we” or “America” is silly.

        • Ronan

          I agree it’d have to be phrased clearer to identify that influence in a meaningful way (on thd civil rights movement, if you’re interested , there’s a good book by Simon price on the effect it had in Northern Ireland)

  • Aimai

    Such joyful news.

  • Jordan

    This is truly great. Didn’t I read that *every* major party supported the measure? awesome.

    Now, if they can get on that whole abortion thing …

    • It is interesting that gay rights are more acceptable than abortion.

      Of course that might now be true in the U.S. as well.

      • Jordan

        Yeah, that may well be true too.

      • KmCO

        I think there’s no question that that’s accurate of U.S. politics.

    • Ronan

      abortion is politically too toxic, any major change would require a constitutional ammendment and no party (perhaps with the exception of a Sinn Fein govt, labour are too weak now) would commit to it willingly. Also, id imagine, the opposition would be stronger (maybe not majority, depending how you phrased the question, but politically effective)

      • Jordan

        I mean, I totally defer to you here, but isn’t the gay marriage thing a constitutional amendment?

        And, again, I’d like to hear more here: why is gay marriage so accepted by all the parties, but abortion is still so toxic?

        • Origami Isopod

          I’ve seen analysis, can’t remember where, to the effect that gay marriage will always be less polarizing than abortion because the former means the creation of a family, whereas the latter is a woman rejecting, at least for the moment, the role of mother.

          • Jordan

            That totally makes sense to me. I guess I can’t remember a split where you have a strong majority supporting gay marriage while at the same time rejecting any abortions whatsoever other than those that put the mothers health at immediate risk (which is recent and only because of the terrible treatment that dentist received).

          • Lee Rudolph

            whereas the latter is a woman rejecting, at least for the moment, the role of mother

            Well, except for the cases in which the woman is already the mother of as many, or more, children as she is able to mother well (by her own specifications; number may be 0). Of course that in itself would be her rejection of some people’s idea of “the role of mother”.

            • Origami Isopod

              Well, yes, I should have clarified that it’s about perceptions.

              • Lee Rudolph

                That was clear enough to me; I wasn’t intending to clarify what you wrote, merely to make it more biting and condemnatory of the Family>Women faction.

          • KmCO

            I’ve seen analysis, can’t remember where, to the effect that gay marriage will always be less polarizing than abortion because the former means the creation of a family, whereas the latter is a woman rejecting, at least for the moment, the role of mother.

            Makes sense. On the one hand, concerning gay marriage, it’s definitely a positive thing that the norms of family creation have broadened to be more inclusive of LGBT and non-gender binary individuals. On the other hand, in the case of reproductive agency, it still means that family creation is considered the norm and that anyone who chooses not to opt in is seen as abnormal or transgressive. I’ve witnessed this attitude even among people who are liberal and pro-choice.

            • Origami Isopod

              I’ve witnessed this attitude even among people who are liberal and pro-choice.

              Oh, yes. Don’t get me started.

        • Ronan

          Don’t defer to me ! Really, Im not making any claim to authority here (ive lived out of the country for good parts of the last decade and plenty of people with a more sophisticated take on Irish politics might well disagree with me) Also, if I would like my past comments here to have shown anything it’s that Im usually wrong ; )….

          A few things I’d mention though (1) there’s no incentive for the two major parties (Fianna Fail and Fine Gael) to push for a referendum as it’d be unpopular with large parts of their base and party. The same sex marriage referendum was a Labour demand when going into coalition with Fine Gael, and Labour are a spent force for the next couple of cycles.
          (2)I think it’s a more divisive issue.I think something could be generalised from that to most political contexts (as Origami is saying just above me) This is more an instinct than anything I have much proof for, but referendums over social issues in ireland before this one have been extremely divisive. I could see conservatives having better success at rallying the base over abortion.
          Having said that (1)public opinion has shifted over the past few decades and the rise of Sinn Fein offers a plausible political avenue to rally that support(2) Im pretty ignorant on the technical specifics of abortion law, how much can be changed without referendum etc So dont take any of this as gospel.

          • Ronan

            It’s also a cliche to say it, but it’s largely true, that Ireland is (still) a collection of quite small close knit communities (not as much as it has been, but it still is) That can lead to narrow minded parochialism at times, but it also means that politics can become very personalised (a major part of this campaign has been the idea of families protecting their own)

            i dont agree with all of this, but it gives an idea of it


            I dont know how this would work in an abortion campaign (I mean I see how it *should* work, but not sure itd have the same emotional appeal)

          • Jordan

            Well, I mean, I’m pretty sure you still know more about Irish politics than I do, so :)

            1) Ok, so the idea is that labour is a lesser party, and demanded this referendum as a condition for supporting Fine Gael?

            Thats cool, and good for them. But didn’t Fine Gael, Fianna Fail (and like another one?) all support this referendum? Thats a pretty consensus elite opinion in support, which seems like it wants an explanation.

            2) Thats for sure. I guess I’m wondering why? The church is opposed to both. Is it the public activism? Is it just a general expression of the patriarchy? Or something else? I’m just confused here, really.

            1.1/2.1): Yeah, but this *is* a referendum, and a constitutional amendment to boot, isn’t it?

            and as a total aside: (because why not) how exactly does Sinn Fein work in actual Ireland? (I know they have votes, but thats it).

            • Ronan

              (1) yes and no. All the parties supported the referendum but Fine Gael started off lukewarm (mobilising when they saw its popularity), and in Fianna Fail(where it was primarily a leadership decision) backbenchers sat it out.
              (2) I dont know why.I wouldnt necessarily say the Church is responsible, but I honestly dont know. There are probably people here with a much more sophisticated take on the dynamics of opinion on abortion which I think are somewhat generalisable across contexts (I know this is a get out to answering the question, but….)

              It is a referendum and constitutional ammendment, but Ireland has a lot of referendums (I think they average out every two or three years) so ammending the constitution isnt the issue. The issue is more the topic, where my impression is that abortion is still more divisive than gay marriage)

              re Sinn Fein, in the South they’re (by opinion polling) the second most popular party in the country at the minute. They only entered Southern politics over the past decade plus and started off with traditional republican (ie conservative nationalist ) areas on the border and in the west, but since the recession have built up substantial support mainly as the opposition to austerity and the establishment party. Theyre also the majority nationalist party in the north, but the politics and issues are quite different in both places.
              Whether or not their popularity represents a long term shift in Irish politics (or even into the next election) is open to debate (I think so) but they wont be in govt any time soon as none of the major parties, I would guess, will go into government with them, and they might be foolish to enter govt when popular opinion is still so outraged about the past 8 years. (that depends though as to what extent the economy improves over the next few years)
              There’s also a lot of unresolved issues over the Troubles that could cost them support in the south.

              • Becker

                What about the last 8 years? Something to do with the recession?

                • Ronan

                  Yeah, economic collapse, unemployment, emigration, austerity, bankruptcy etc
                  Sinn Fein’s rise cant really be seen outside of the context of a reaction to the recession and the establishment parties.

                • Ronan

                  ..but also by doing a lot of constituency work and building support from the bottom up. Organisationally theyre pretty effective.

            • Ronan
          • efgoldman

            if I would like my past comments here to have shown anything it’s that Im usually wrong ; )….

            The very definition of a blog commenting regular.
            (Takes one to know one)

      • MacK

        The odd thing is that the “pro-life” amendment was so badly written and inherently meaningless that there is now limited abortion in Ireland.

  • Ronan

    My cynical side would say minority rights shouldnt have to go through popular vote (it’s an outgrowth of constitutional obligations in Ireland)and that we shouldnt congragulate ourselves on doing what is right and proper, but….in terms of the campaign think the Obama campaign without the inevitable dissapointment, a grassroots movement led by ‘the youth’ (Ive come to identify as the eldery now), passed in every (i think) constituency, where working class urban areas outvoted the more salubrious suburbs, small villages larger towns.
    It must have been a daunting thing for Irelands gay community/activists to have to go to the country and make the case for their humanity, but they did, and the fact that the population has responded with a high turnout and convincing YES is, I think, something.
    It really holds a mirror up to the pragmatic cynicism of Irish politics. (which has a lot to be said for it, but is hardly inspiring)

    • tsam

      You’re right, rights shouldn’t be up for a public vote. But we have a system, and sometimes it just takes the voice of the people to override the chickenshits we elect to represent us. Courage isn’t exactly the first word one would use to describe any politician.

      Tl;dr: it’s bullshit, but I’ll take it.

      • Joe_JP

        still, how do rights get recognized? Not just by the goodness of our hearts. Governments have to enforce them or some judgment at least has to be made they exist. Here, there is more powerful judicial review, but even that is influenced by popular action.

        • tsam

          You may object on relevance, but I don’t see rights as ours to give. They’re inalienable, meaning we fucked up by denying them in the first place. You’re right, this is a judicial review of sorts, but rather than calling it “allowing SSM” I’d calling stopping the practice of oppressing our brothers and sisters.

  • Joanna


  • Don Kensler

    The priests and bishops truly have lost control in Ireland, and they have only themselves (or their predecessors) to blame.

    • tsam

      Those fuckers shouldn’t have control over anything other than their phony bullshit jobs. Their influence should be passive and they don’t deserve any political power.

      • Jordan

        Pretty sure they still control most of the schools there :(

        • Don Kensler

          True, but if the kids aren’t listening …

          • Origami Isopod

            You absorb an awful lot from your elders even if you don’t mean to, even if you actively try not to. Children learn from how adults model behavior.

    • MAJeff

      The priests and bishops truly have lost control in Ireland,

      As they should everywhere.

      • Redwood Rhiadra

        Eh, I’m fine with the priests and bishops having control of the Vatican.

        But only that much.

    • Warren Terra

      The CBC’s As It Happens on Thursday had an interview with an Irish Priest backing equal marriage. I’m not sure the retrograde heirarchy can retain its grasp even on the Church, let alone on the State.

      • efgoldman

        The CBC’s As It Happens on Thursday had an interview with an Irish Priest backing equal marriage.

        I have no idea if it’s the same one, but the bishop of Derry, quoted by Benen today:

        one of the Catholic country’s bishops had a word of caution for those poised to vote ‘no.’ ‘I would hate for people to vote no for bad reasons, for sort of bigoted reasons, for nasty reasons, for bullying reasons,’ the Bishop of Derry, Rev. Donal McKeown, said during a radio debate.”

        • Porlock Junior

          The last temptation is the greatest treason:
          To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

          Not a bad sentiment to come from a bishop.

  • MAJeff

    I’ve been watching RTE coverage all day, and it’s just so much fun.

    Even the pathetic whinging from the bigots at the Iona Institute isn’t ruining it.

    • Origami Isopod

      Their tears are the rarest and most delicious of whiskies.

      • tsam

        There’s something extra special about tears spawned by an issue that has a totally imaginary effect on the butthole shedding them.

      • Warren Terra

        Surely that should be “whiskeys”, because (1) I don’t think “whiskies” even is the plural form of “whiskey” and (2) it helps to distinguish (Irish) “whiskey” from (Scottish) “whisky”.

        • Origami Isopod

          Oops. I got the national attributions backwards. Thanks.

      • Francis

        Try Rod Dreher’s blog. Oh the sweet sweet misery he is suffering discovering that organized Christianity is plummeting in popularity and political power.

    • MacK

      Breda O’Brien’s sore throat seems to have cleared right up…..

      • Origami Isopod
        • MacK

          But she loves gay people – she says so, and she is worried about discrimination (admittedly against those who’d sue you if you called them a homophobe.)

          By the way, with all this argument about marriage bring about motherhood it’s a pity no one asked her or be the Iona Institute types – “well in that basis you agree with lesbian marriage, not homosexual?”

          I can see the sputtering now.

  • MacK

    The most remarkable item was that my friends and family were worried that it would be close – but the No vote looks to have carried only one constituency, if that. Places that were considered sure Nos went yes. The Iona Institute is claiming that it was bullied! Free speech is now suppressed, etc.

    I have been trying to recruit some of the placard/posters but Yes are very hard to find. Lots of Nos.

  • Of course, to no surprise by me, Northern Ireland continues to be the most narrow-minded and backward part of the the UK or Ireland.

    • Becker

      How can NI still not have marriage equality, when both the UK and the Republic now have it? Aren’t they under British law?

      • MAJeff

        As I recall, the action from London only covered England and Wales. The Scottish parliament approved it independently.

      • MacK

        It’s one of be devolved powers, maybe.

        Devolution to Scotland and Northern Ireland “reserved” certain powers to Westminster (negative transfer) and affirmatively transferred others.

        But – and it’s a big but, the Human Rights Act applies in the entire UK, by treaty (it’s in the Anglo-Irish agreement for example that it apply to Northern Ireland.) This presents an interesting issue – what if the Human Rights Act was held to encompass marriage equality.

        The HRA is based on the European Convention, but the UK courts have held the ECHR and Strasbourg’s interpretation to be a floor and not a ceiling, i.e., the HRA is legislatively separate – the same language in it can mean more, just not less.

  • ChrisTS

    I read that the (a?) leader of the No movement congratulated the winners. Can you imagine that in this country? Hell, there would be open carriers and teabaggers in the streets.

    • Ronan

      Let’s not romanticise the Irish political class here christs ; ) ( good to see you by the way!) I think they just realise they’ve lost the country , including those parts whose values they claim to represent. There’s a LOT wrong with Irish politics, this is one of those unequivocally good days!

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