Hope against fear: Ireland votes

Since yesterday, the world has been waiting with bated breath for the result of Friday’s Irish referendum on ‘Marriage Equality.’ In simple terms, the referendum was staged to decide whether the country’s constitution should be amended to recognise unions of same sex couples as marriages, with similar qualities and dignity as ‘traditional’ marriages.

And the world is right to anticipate it, for the news which will come from this tiny European island nation on Sunday afternoon, when the results are announced, will likely be one of the most important checks on the pro-gay agenda or serve as one of its most celebrated trump cards. This is because Ireland is the first country in the world to put the issue to the ballot.

Currently, around 17 countries and a number of states in the US allow same sex couples to marry. But they all have one thing in common. These recognitions are legal, not constitutional. Ireland, if it votes yes, could be the first country in the world to enshrine the concept of ‘Marriage Equality’ which, by the way, defies all rational argument and grammatical exposition, in its constitution, by the will of the people.

I’ve head the phrase ‘down to the wire’ used a number of times. But in few contexts was it as relevant as it has been in late reports in the buildup to the referendum. The ‘Yes’ side, which wants the country to allow same-sex marriage, began on an almost triumphant high. And that’s no surprise. The government and the main opposition parties are behind it, a most incredible show of unity. Major offshore companies across the ponds, both small and large, are behind it, of course through proxy entities.

Major media houses, in speaking of the referendum, have very ‘innocently’ let it out that a ‘Yes’ win will be a sign of progress and independence from the Catholic Church, which has been a strong force in Irish culture and nationalism for centuries. Why, even the phrasing of the referendum question, which gives the positive answer to the pro-gray-marriage bandwagon, had its role to play in giving it the initial boost.

Yet, towards the end of the campaign period, the ‘No’ side rallied back on ground it had seemingly lost, and there were strong indications that many people who had reported in opinion polls that they would vote ‘Yes’ were only doing that out of fear and would instead vote ‘No.’ So, not all is lost. But the reason they said ‘Yes’ in opinion polls, fear, indicates a growing trend in the whole gay debate around the world.

People are afraid to admit that they don’t approve of gay marriage. They might lose their jobs, as is likely to be the case if you work at Apple or Facebook or Microsoft or any of the 500 hundred large American companies which signed a petition to the American Supreme Court beseeching it to find protection for gay marriage in the American constitution. The court has just concluded oral arguments on the issue and is expected to release a verdict soon.

People are afraid to lose face. Dolce and Gabbana, two gay men who are household names in designer clothing, recently faced an avalanche of vitriol and calls to boycott their products when they expressed reservations against gay marriage. Ignoring the fact that the two designers were actually also gay, the gay community called them ‘homophobic’ and poured all manner of troll on them. So, no one is immune to being called ‘homophobic.’

People are afraid of seeming backward, because the call for recognition of gay marriage has been touted as the only side of the marriage debate which is compatible with the modern world and progress. Everything else is traditional, backward and doesn’t belong in a world which knows better. Any opposition will earn the opposer immediate catcalls and branding.

Many people are afraid of different other consequences if they come out in opposition. The whole world therefore seems to approve, charged as it is by fear not to seem otherwise. And, to make it seem even more normal, people’s private lives are dug up into the limelight, and they are pointed out as examples of prominent gay men and women. Sometimes I wonder when they will start pointing out the prominent straight people. Or when prominent people will come out of the closet and say they are straight, and they love themselves that way.

Anyway, back to the matter of the Irish referendum. Ballots are being counted as I write this, and the results will be announced on Sunday afternoon. The Irish people have exercised their democratic rights. One can only hope they have done it without ignoring the responsibilities that come with exercising such rights.

The ‘No’ side, buffeted as it has been by the well-funded and -oiled machinery of the ‘Yes’ side, together with everyone who refuses to admit that man is just an animal, can only hope that the voters’ fear didn’t translate into actual votes, and that they were able to overcome it at the crucial moment.

Feature image: Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash.

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