Voters in Ireland overwhelmingly chose to change their nation’s constitution Friday, becoming the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage through popular vote

Voter turnout in the majority Catholic nation was more than 60%, according to Fhlanghaile.

Despite speculation in the run-up that opposition to the measure might have been understated because people were too shy to tell pollsters that they planned to vote “no” — the outcome was lopsided, with the measure passing by just over 61% of the total vote cast.

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Ireland’s newspapers said Sunday that the country had dramatically changed and confirmed its emergence from the shadow of the traditionally powerful Catholic Church by voting in favour of gay marriage…

“A new beginning” said its front page, which carried a picture of a lesbian couple who plan to marry as others in the background jumped in the air waving the rainbow flag…

The Irish Sunday Mirror said a “No” vote would have reinforced “tired stereotypes of a small-minded, God-fearing Catholic country”, but the result “knocked this notion out of the park”.

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“I’m a gay Irish-Catholic American and I’m here to bear witness to history and to show that the people from whom I descend are leading the way socially. I think that Europe and the rest of the world needs to wake up and realise where social liberalism is really happening. Look at the smoking ban and now this. It seems like if it can happen here, the argument against it anywhere is severely undermined.”

But he warned equality campaigners that there would be a backlash. “The last kicks of the dying mule are the meanest and the hardest. Just when we thought we were getting progress by electing a black man in the United States of America, all of a sudden it gave licence to all these crazy racists to go on Twitter and say “I hate niggers”. They feel like it’s okay in polite company to do that. There are a lot of people who did not vote for this and this is going to hurt them.”

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But this referendum was about more than just the right to marry. Much, much more. It was the manifestation of a social revolution that’s been simmering away in Ireland for some time…

It used to be that Irishness was defined by affection for the Catholic Church and resistance to European liberal trends. So stubborn was this identity that the country took longer than the rest of Western Europe to embrace secularism. But the paedophile revelations of the 1990s rightly rocked faith in the Church as an institution, while a series of recent scandals shook faith in its actual theology. The latter set of outrages were, frankly, distortions of the facts. It was wrongly claimed that a woman had been allowed to die because Catholic doctors would not give her a life saving abortion (no such thing even exists). It was falsely charged that a Catholic children’s home had dumped the bodies of hundreds of unwanted babies into a septic tank. Never mind that both stories crumbled under scrutiny – the popularity of them spoke to a growing sense that everything wrong with Ireland was due to the imported tyranny of Catholicism. Shake off the last remnants of traditional religious authority, it was reasoned, and Ireland could finally join the 21st century. Au revoir, Father Ted.

To emphasise, the Yes vote was undoubtedly a reflection of growing tolerance towards gays and lesbians. But it was also a politically trendy, media backed, well financed howl of rage against Catholicism. How the Church survives this turn, is not clear. It’ll require a lot of hard work and prayers.

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Six years before the Pope arrived [in 1979], Ireland had joined the EU, giving it access to markets much larger than previously when its trade had been predominantly with Britain. That, combined with an influx of foreign investment, transformed Ireland from one of the poorest countries in Europe to one of the wealthiest. Its economy grew so powerfully in the 1990s that Ireland became known as the Celtic tiger…

Voices began to be raised in public for a liberalisation of laws on contraception, divorce and even abortion. If peace came dropping slow on the island of Ireland, social change was rapid. Restrictions on contraception were lifted. Though a referendum to legalise divorce was heavily defeated in 1986, it was passed in 1995. Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993, albeit 30 years later than in the UK. A rift began to grow slowly and silently between the church and society.

It was, of course, the paedophile priests who sent that relationship into freefall. Sunday Mass attendance, which was more than 90 per cent in the 1970s, had fallen to 34 per cent by 2013. The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, estimates that in the capital, the figure has plunged to only 18 per cent. Many in Ireland now describe themselves as “post-Catholics”. They are, according to Michael Kelly, the editor of The Irish Catholic newspaper, “functionally atheist”…

All of this explains why Archbishop Martin decided that the Catholic Church would not lead the opposition to a Yes vote on gay marriage in Friday’s referendum. He would vote No, he said, but added: “I have, however, no wish to stuff my religious views down other people’s throats.”

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The archbishop told the broadcaster RTE: “We [the church] have to stop and have a reality check, not move into denial of the realities. We won’t begin again with a sense of renewal, with a sense of denial.

“I appreciate how gay and lesbian men and women feel on this day. That they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live. I think it is a social revolution.”

The archbishop personally voted no, arguing that gay rights should be respected “without changing the definition of marriage”. “I ask myself, most of these young people who voted yes are products of our Catholic school system for 12 years. I’m saying there’s a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the church,” he added.

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Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown was speaking for the “no” position on the referendum, as supported by the bishops of Ireland, in a debate on the Shaun Doherty Show.

Although he maintained that legalizing same-sex “marriage” would be a “dangerous experiment,” especially the ramifications in the lives of children and future generations, he equivocated that people could vote yes or no in the referendum “in good conscience,” if they were as informed as possible before voting and were making a “mature decision.”

“People have to make their own mature decision, be it yes or be it no. I would hate for people to be voting no for bad reasons, for bigoted reasons, for nasty reasons, for bullying reasons. People have to make up their own minds and I’m quite happy that people can do that in front of God, be it yes or be it no,” Bishop McKeown said.

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The vote in Ireland illuminates a dynamic shift on LGBT issues among Catholics and people of faith across the globe. Today about 60% of Catholics in the United States support gay marriage, compared to about 36% a decade ago.

In fact, many who voted “yes” on gay marriage did so because of their faith, not in spite of it. One elderly Irish couple put it this way: “We are Catholics, and we are taught to believe in compassion and love and fairness and inclusion. Equality, that’s all we’re voting for.”

The idea of an inclusive Catholic Church may have seemed like a pipe dream not many years ago, but under the tenure of Francis the Troublemaker, it doesn’t seem that farfetched. Two summers ago the Pope tweeted, “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.”

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The Irish referendum is notable for another reason: It further erodes the original justification for partition between a Protestant majority in the north and a Catholic majority in the south. In the decade before the island was split in 1920, northern Protestants threatened to take up arms against the British government if it granted Ireland the kind of home-rule powers that many in Scotland now seek. Their opposition was rooted mostly in bigotry, but also suspicion: They believed, as many American Protestants at the time did, that Catholic politicians couldn’t be trusted to be independent of the Pope — and that, for Ireland, “home rule means Rome rule.”…

Of course, there is little popular appetite on either side of the border even to talk about Irish reunification, given its association with violence and the unlikelihood of it coming to pass anytime soon. And in the short term, Friday’s referendum may intensify Unionist opposition to a united Ireland, if that’s possible. But if the line separating north from south is ever to be erased, and if Yeats’ brand of Protestant nationalism is ever to revive, an Irish government that is committed to secular equality and a strict separation of church and state is a necessary precondition — and one that the referendum helps achieve.  

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Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who was promoting his autobiography at the Hay Festival in Wales, told an audience that “I hope they vote no. I do think marriage is marriage,” in an attempt to persuade voters in Ireland to vote No in its same-sex marriage referendum.

He added that although civil unions are acceptable, gay marriage was contributing to the breakdown of the family, which he described as “the greatest evil in our country,” according to the Telegraph.

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Article 41 of the Constitution, which is what we are being asked to change, is called ‘The Family’. It describes the family as the “natural, primary and fundamental” unit of society. It says it is “indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State”…

If this referendum goes through, we will asked to believe that in all matters relating to the family, including the rearing of children, two men or two women are exactly the same as a man and a woman.

In other words, we are effectively being asked to believe that mothers are the same as fathers.

We are also being asked to believe that the biological ties don’t matter. Obviously two men or two women raising a child cannot both be the biological parents of the one child. We will be giving our full constitutional blessing to cutting the tie to the other biological parent if we vote Yes today.

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There’s a profound irony here: Ireland’s political class calls for a Yes vote to prove that Ireland has moved on from its intolerant religious past, and yet some of that old intolerance is being rehabilitated by the very people backing gay marriage. They shush dissent and demonise their opponents as effectively as any priest used to do, only in the name of Gays rather than God. Backing gay marriage has become, in Irish Independent columnist, Eilis O’Hanlon’s words, a way for influential people to ‘identify [themselves] as members of an enlightened elite’, ‘kindly metropolitan liberals versus nasty Catholic conservatives’. This referendum is now only ostensibly about gay marriage: more fundamentally it has become a means for a new, PC, post-traditionalist elite to distinguish itself from the allegedly hateful and gruff inhabitants of Ireland’s more rural, old-fashioned communities.

The president, Michael D Higgins, and the prime minister, Enda Kenny, back gay marriage. So does virtually every politician. Indeed, the main parties are enforcing the party whip on gay marriage, meaning any Senator or TD who votes against it is likely to be expelled from his or her party. According to the Irish Independent, even politicians who harbour ‘reservations about this major legislative change’ are not speaking out, ‘for fear of disobeying the party whip’. A professor of theology has written about a culture of ‘intimidation’ in political circles, saying it’s ‘incredible that the political parties have imposed the whip’ on this issue. Only one politician — one — has resigned his party’s whip over gay marriage.

So intense is the whipped political consensus that politicians, desperate to demonstrate their gay-marriage correctness, are openly flouting some of the Irish parliament’s longstanding rules. Wearing political badges is forbidden in Ireland’s parliament, so in recent weeks politicians have been asked to remove the ‘YES’ badges many of them have taken to wearing. And they have refused. And no less a figure than Joan Burton, the deputy prime minister, has supported them. Clearly, parliamentary rules come a poor second to making a public spectacle of one’s devotion to gay marriage. Wearing a ‘YES’ badge has become a shortcut to the moral highground, a passport to chattering-class respectability, and politicians won’t be taking them off for anyone.

Meanwhile, virtually the entire media are agitating for a Yes vote.

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My family and I have been living this for 16 months, since I was attacked, without basis or evidence, by a drag queen on a TV talk show. In all my years observing and writing about the political life of Ireland, I have never encountered anything like the venom of the baying mob that descended on me afterwards, or the duplicity and cowardice of media people who joined in. What I have observed over this past 16 months has chilled me to the quick, and alerted me to the fragility of our democracy…

I met a man the other day who confided his belief that, in pushing this amendment, Enda Kenny had provoked in Irish society a “mental civil war”, which will have ramifications of their type just as serious as the Civil War of 93 years ago. He may be correct. The stories I’ve come across of intimidation and hate-mongering are for me unprecedented in over 30 years writing about Irish life and politics. I met men whose daughters begged them not to let anyone know they were thinking of voting No, lest they, the children, be ostracised by their peers…

There are countless examples of illegality and blackguardism: the tearing down of No posters, the gloating YouTube video boasting of this usurping of the democratic process, the egg-throwing, the harassing of a hotel in Galway until it cancelled an anti-amendment meeting.

This has been the most comprehensive betrayal of democratic principles by an establishment in living memory.

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Gay marriage is going to come to this country by Supreme Court vote next month, but do not be under the illusion that this will settle anything. The “new climate of prohibition concerning certain forms of thought and speech, an Orwellian revisionism directed at texts and records bearing witness to old ideas” is coming to America too. If you don’t see this, you are being willfully blind. Bishops and leaders of the orthodox, or at least officially orthodox, churches — Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox — who are not soberly but unhesitatingly preparing their people for this is a sign of their dereliction of duty…

All of us Americans, whether we call ourselves liberals or conservatives, are liberals in this sense. I am no different. I believe in free speech, freedom of religion, civil rights and the other hallmarks of liberalism. Now that liberalism has evolved into hostility to what I believe to be true about religion, morality, and human nature, I — like all orthodox Christians — have to face the fact that liberalism, which all of us Americans took in with our mother’s milk, may ultimately be alien to our faith, because in the end, it enthrones the choosing Self over God or any conception of external, transcendent Truth…

We must be realistic about where we are, and where we are likely to go. Liberalism and its institutions — including, note well, market capitalism — are not destroying Christianity and the traditional family because they are being perverted. They are destroying Christianity and the traditional family because it is in their nature to do so. This is not being forced on people — though their desires have certainly been manipulated — but it is something they have chosen, because it expresses what they believe to be the truth about being, about man, about meaning, and about liberty.

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One has to think that many of the “advances” our opponents are making is because people are simply tired of conflict.  Like the parent that eventually buys the child the sugary cereal if they promise to not speak for the rest of the time they are in the store, many of the people who now support same-sex marriage are doing so just to make them shut up.  Which, also like the parent that concedes to the child’s demand for the cereal, in the end only leads to more demands.  That’s French’s last two sentences in the pull quote above in somewhat plainer language.

And that illustrates the second thing we have to do.  We have to reach out to the people that are tired of the fight, not to bring them into the fight, but simply to make them a friend and to help them endure the noise.  Many is the time in the store I have witnessed a parent just about to give in to the incessant demands of their child, and rather than tell the parent not to, or tell them how bad the cereal is for the child, or call their judgement into question, I just smile and say something like, “That tenacity is amazing, isn’t it?”  The parent, now no longer feeling alone in the situation often tells the child “No” one more time. And the child, now feeling ganged up upon, usually quiets a bit.

This fight is not an opportunity for evangelism.  Most people know there is something “off” about same-sex marriage.  We don’t have to teach them why, we don’t have to help them memorize the related Bible verse, we just need to encourage them to go with their gut on this one.  There is a time and a place for teaching and converting.  This is not it.

Ireland notwithstanding, this fight is not lost, not if we play it right.

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