I awoke today crying. Tears of hope, tears of pride.
I have 3 brothers. As a shorthand I call them the gay, the Muslim and the Republican (as in American, I-love-Dubya Republican, not the Gerry Adams kind). We are a motley crew, my brothers and I, and I love them all dearly (most of the time). All of them are married, in my eyes, though not in the eyes of the state. Today this may all change and my gay brother, who has been in a committed relationship for over 20 years (longer than the other 2 brothers put together) will have that recognition. That’s really important.
Here’s the thing: I don’t believe marriage is the be-all-and-end-all. Statistics show it doesn’t necessarily favour women, and divorce statistics would show that it’s not always for the long haul. But I do believe in equality. I believe that, as a fellow citizen you are entitled to the same rights as everyone else, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, religion or ethnicity. I believe society has a moral duty, more sacred than any other, to honour those rights. So today is also a very important day for Ireland, where we show the world that we are a mature democracy and, despite our size, leaders in the principles of equality and justice for all.
Ireland has had a chequered and troubled past. First colonised and brutalised by our neighbours, we then went on after Independence to colonise and brutalise ourselves. I know from women of my Mum’s generation the sheer terror of the threat of being sent to the Magdalen laundries, for any number of reasons: being too pretty, getting pregnant, being raped. Being a child. For those people, defying the Church brought very real consequences which people of my generation can only imagine. I remember the hell-fire-and-brimstone sermons by local priests when the divorce and abortion referendums were put forward in the 80s. I remember finally losing my religion after reading ‘In God’s Name’ and realising that religion was a big, patriarchal and (in my opinion) anti-human con. Well, mostly. I still say prayers to St. Jude and to the spirits of my dear departed ancestors and friends. Go figure. We are contradictory, humans, and some habits die hard.
Today Ireland has the opportunity to come out a positive force in the world, a beacon of hope and light. From what I’ve been reading, the grace, humour and the better nature of the Irish people has shone through, and despite the recent economic rollercoaster, people are discussing what’s important. It seems to have been a re-discovery of our better, more Druidic natures.
When my brother came out my mum asked me what I thought. I said that it shouldn’t matter who you love or are loved by, love is what is important. I still believe that – more so, if anything. When people’s spirits leave their bodies, what else will be the best legacy?
In any case, an essay of my thoughts today. A wealth of emotions at the potential dawn of a new Hibernia. Love in my heart for my family, my friends, my country. Solidarity with my Irish LGBT family, friends and colleagues. Vote wisely. Vote kindly. Vote well. #voteYes #marref