By an overwhelming margin, voters in Ireland have chosen to legalize marriage equality in the country, making it the first nation in the world to do so by popular vote.
Support for marriage cut across age, gender, income and region; out of 43 districts in the country, only one voted against the measure. (Even Ireland has its Alabama.)
While the vote has no legal implications beyond Ireland’s borders, the victory will still have an impact on U.S. politics.
Here are five reasons why today’s win in Ireland will make a difference in this country.
1. Ireland is one of the most Catholic nations in the world. The vote was a thumb in the eye of Irish bishops who made a last-ditch appeal to the faithful, who haven’t forgiven the bishops for the Church’s child-abuse scandals. The bishops’ failure shows how frayed the Church’s hold is on those in the pews. Worse still, it’s not as if pro-marriage Catholics felt that they were bucking the Church. In fact, many believed that they were following Church teachings that demand fairness. The power of the Catholic Church isn’t what it once was in Ireland. But what diminishes the Church’s hold there will inevitably hurt the hierarchy in the U.S. as well. After all, the Church is a global corporation.
2. Support cut across party lines. Amazingly, the entire Irish political establishment lined up for marriage equality. That’s not likely to happen any time soon in the U.S., at least as long as the Mike Huckabee-Ted Cruz wing of the GOP is around. But it is a harbinger of the future. At some point, it’s inevitable that marriage equality simply fades as a political football. You can still be a conservative and be pro-marriage equality. There are plenty of other ideological battles that liberals and conservatives can fight. As Ireland showed, marriage equality doesn’t have to be one of them.
3. The pro-family argument was on the side of marriage equality. Here’s a nice twist: in Ireland, marriage equality was seen as the pro-family position. Family is important both culturally and legally in Ireland, with the constitution explicitly protecting family as “a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptable rights.” This is a lesson for the U.S., where conservative Christians have misappropriated the mantle of family values. As the definition of family expands, opposition to marriage equality can only be seen as anti-family.
4. Demographics are on the side of equality. The vote in Ireland proved yet again that young people are overwhelmingly supportive of marriage equality. Some 66,000 young people registered to vote in advance of the referendum. At some point, that lesson can’t be lost on recalcitrant Republicans in the U.S., at least some of whom know in their hearts that they are on the point of losing a generation of voters.
5. There go the St. Patrick Day’s parade bans. Perhaps the most immediate impact of the marriage vote in Ireland will be on St. Patrick Day parades. Parade organizers have had a hard time maintaining their outright ban on gay groups in the parades, but they are going to look especially silly now that Ireland itself has vaulted into the forefront of LGBT rights. If the country itself can overwhelmingly support marriage, how can the once-a-year Irish in the U.S. prevent gay groups from marching in the parade? That’s going to be a tough question to answer without looking stupid, but we’re confident that the parade organizers can do it.
Look stupid, that is.
Photo credit: YesEquality Facebook page