By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
The Constitution of Ireland permits amendment only by popular vote. A vote of the people for such amendments can provide more legitimacy and acceptance by the public and judging by the margin gay marriage will probably gain acceptance more readily. Nevertheless it does not necessarily engender full acceptance of such partnerships as over seven hundred thousand voters chose otherwise. Some institutions in Irish society will struggle to come to terms with the new direction Ireland is pursuing.
Change has been underway with the Irish government’s approach to the issue. Ireland decriminalized homosexuality twenty two years ago and later in 2010 the state voted to permit same sex civil unions to have same legal status as heterosexual couples. Yet there existed considerable debate as to whether a full marriage would be permitted. In 2013 a constitutional convention formed to explore the possibility of amending the Irish Constitution to allow the right to marriage regardless of gender of either party. In 2014 a referendum was drafted to be posed to the people. Voting occurred yesterday.
Probably the most visible unresolved question will be that of the Catholic Church which is not legally bound presently to perform gay marriages by its clergy or within its facilities. The vast majority of Irish are of the Catholic religion which might put more tradition minded church leaders against a younger demographic which sided with the Yes camp in greater proportions. The higher age demographic was more likely to belong to the No camp.
The issue has the potential to cause a schism within the church because doctrine disallows such marriages and the church’s hierarchy answers to the Vatican which ultimately could set policy contrary to that of Catholic Church in Ireland. The issue of gay marriage has caused fragmentation of protestant churches in the United States.
It is likely that in the afterglow of the passage of the referendum Ireland will experience strong debate while it tries to understand and embrace this change. Time will be ultimately the deciding factor. The younger generation embraces gay marriage. Eventually it will not be a significant matter for controversy but like most controversies first generation likely will be the one to struggle the most.
By Darren Smith
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