Fox News is reporting that the landslide vote was a surprise to both sides of the issue. Analysts say the success of the “yes” vote is largely due to a large turnout among first-time young voters who were mobilized on social media. Gay activists were also able to generate public support by producing a series of hard-hitting ads featuring gripping personal stories from same-sex couples struggling for recognition.
Friday’s referendum makes Ireland the first country to approve gay marriage in a popular national vote.
“We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world, of liberty and equality. So it’s a very proud day to be Irish,” said Leo Varadkar, a Cabinet minister who came out as gay at the start of a government-led effort to amend Ireland’s conservative Catholic constitution.
“We’re in a new country,” said political analyst Sean Donnelly, who has covered Irish politics since the 1970s. “I’m of a different generation. When I was reared up, the church was all powerful and the word `gay’ wasn’t even in use in those days. How things have moved from my childhood to now. It’s been a massive change for a conservative country.”
Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Labour Party leader Joan Burton, said Ireland was becoming “a rainbow nation with a huge amount of diversity.”
On the other side of the issue, opponents of same-sex marriage say their defeat was almost inevitable because none of the country’s political parties, and most of its politicians, backed gay marriage.
David Quinn, leader of the Catholic think tank Iona Institute, told Fox he was troubled by the fact that no political party backed the “no” cause.
“We helped to provide a voice to the hundreds of thousands of Irish people who did vote no. The fact that no political party supported them must be a concern from a democratic point of view,” he said.
On the other side of the pond, the vote is reverberating through the U.S. where the nation is awaiting what could be a pivotal decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage which is expected to be handed down on June 29.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage in Washington, DC, expressed his disappointment at the outcome of the vote, but admits he was not surprised.
“This is a reflection on the increasingly secularized nature of Ireland, together with the utter abandonment of principle by every political party in the nation, all of whom endorsed the referendum. This, combined with intense harassment of any group or individual who spoke out in opposition to the referendum, made it difficult for opponents,” Brown said in a statement.
However, even with this decision in Ireland, same-sex marriage has been largely rejected by the community of nations with only 19 now approving of the unions – a number which represents just 10 percent of the nations of the world – and all of these are in the West.
“If there is any relevance to the Irish vote for people here in the United States, it is that the US Supreme Court should take note that the people of Ireland at least had the opportunity to vote,” Brown said. “This is what we demand of our justices — respect the right of people to define marriage in the law for themselves. If that occurs, we are confident that the American people will continue to support marriage in the law as it exists in reality — the union of one man and one woman in order to provide the ideal environment for any children born of their union.”
Father John Hogan, who organized an international rosary novena against the imposition of gay marriage in Ireland warned that the consequences of a yes vote will be enormous and will effect freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
“It may also result in the liquidation of Catholic marriage agencies and even our schools,” he writes. “The government has already said that our schools will be forced to defile their Catholic ethos to present same sex marriage as being equal to true marriage. It may be no exaggeration to say that the amendment to the Constitution, if passed, may well be used by some within Irish society to try and instigate a new Penal era here.”
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