Now that the euphoria, and disappointment for some, of the same sex marriage referendum has died down, I would like to make a few observations.
First of all wasn’t it fantastic that it was endorsed by such a clear majority? While the divorce referendum narrowly passed 20 years ago, by a margin of just 0.3%, no one would doubt the validity of this poll. The Irish people voted by a decisive margin of 62% Yes, 38% No in a fair and democratic ballot to endorse same sex marriage.
This referendum was not simply about marriage. It was deeper than that. It has changed people’s attitudes towards gay people and even how gay people feel about themselves. Since the result I have been struck by the amount of gay people who have expressed these sentiments to me. I knew a No vote would have been a set back to the gay community and it would make it look that all the changes I have witnessed in society since homosexual acts were de-criminalized over 20 years ago were somehow not real. In lots of ways this was the legal system catching up with a changed Ireland and this was clear and tangible evidence of this happening.
There will be media attention when same sex marriage legislation goes through the Dáil and a bit of a media frenzy surrounding the first gay marriages in Ireland. However this will die down and people won’t even bat an eyelid seeing wedding pictures of same sex couples in the papers in the future.
Isn’t that a brilliant society that we Irish people have created for our young people, both gay and straight? We did it across all generations and rural urban divides. Just as it is no longer cool to say you had been out the previous night and drove home with a bellyful of pints, it will no longer be cool for homophobic taunts to be thrown round the school yard or workplace. In an interview with Village magazine in 2010 eminent psychiatrist Prof. Ivor Browne referred to Ireland as a “disturbed child in a fantasy world.” I think that child is finally growing up.