Rainbows over Ireland and what it means

Photo: New York Times
Photo: New York Times

“Ireland became the first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, sweeping aside the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church in a resounding victory Saturday for the gay rights movement and placing the country at the vanguard of social change,” the New York Times reported.

The Irish held a referendum on the issue of allowing same-sex marriage in the country on Saturday, and the final vote was 62.4 per cent in favor and 37.6 per cent against. (See here.)

The result was a stunning one, coming after the Catholic Church expressed opposition to the idea of gay marriage, a position it has always held.

Ireland is a predominantly Catholic nation but the Church’s influence has waned in recent years following the impact of secularisation and the widespread cases of abuse of children by the clergy.

The Washington Post reported after the results of the referendum were announced:

“Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has acknowledged on Irish television that this is a social revolution, and that the church faces an enormous challenge in figuring out how to speak to young people. Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, hinted during the campaign that the Catholic church could consider whether it would continue to support civil marriage through church weddings, if the referendum passed. However, the Catholic church has already lost the allegiance of large sections of Irish youth anyway, not least because of its traditional teachings on sexuality and marriage.”

The Irish people, in the meantime, has much to cheer and be proud of – not the least of which is that it is now the first nation in the world to firmly say that marriage is a right which should also  be accorded to gay people.

That itself is saying quite a bit, especially in a world where so many still frown on, persecute and are ignorant of people who are gay.

Indeed, Ireland is leading the way in changing this.

There is also a lesson for conservatives and ultra-conservatives, homophobes and the like – that society always progresses when minds are open, diversity is accepted and people are respected.

The discrimination of gay people can be horrendous, as seen in barbaric regimes such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the Middle East, in Russia, in parts of Africa and even in Singapore where sex between adult males is a crime.

But slowly and surely, changes are happening – and one of the keys to this is the young people of today.

The Irish vote on Saturday is a warning to all who would not move with the times, who think that defending the status quo is the most beneficial thing, or who hide behind legalistic interpretations of constitutional rights to hold to the status quo of discrimination and persecution.

This is not only dangerous (for it legitimises acts of hatred against a minority group), it also extends tacit approval to state-sanctioned discriminatory practices.

Stubborn and irrational conservatives types would be stuck in their ancient way of thinking so much so that when the tide changes, as it did in Ireland, they will either be left behind and become irrelevant, or they will be forced to change by society’s wave of optimism and courage.

Rainbow over Dublin
Rainbow over Dublin

And on a lighter note, rainbows all over Ireland started to appear after the results of the referendum became clear.

To some, that was a divine sign from above, that even God now has given same-sex marriage the thumbs-up.

That may be exaggerating it a bit, but the rainbow represents vibrancy, diversity and the community of gay people all over the world.

In one definition, the significance of a rainbow is explained thus:

“At its most basic reduction, the rainbow is an amalgamation of light – a perfect harmonic combination which produces a symbol of supernatural beauty, promise and enlightenment.”

Ireland has now given the world that path to wisdom and harmony which can only mean better things for its people.

If only other parts of the world will accept and take into their fold those who are born different from the rest of us but who are nonetheless also the same as each of us, just as the Irish have done.

The above article was first published on Public Opinion.