GAY RIGHTS HAS MOVED FROM AN ISSUE on the margin to a front-and-center global issue in a pretty short period of time. As of right now, 18 countries have legalized gay marriage completely, while others (like the United States and Mexico) have at least made gay marriage legal in some regions. What has not happened yet is the legalization of marriage in a country by popular vote. Tomorrow, Friday May 22, that is likely to change.
An upcoming referendum in Ireland is likely to legalize gay marriage, a major turnaround for a country known for it’s historically strict Catholicism. The current polling suggests that Ireland is likely to vote in favor of the legalization referendum with as much as 69% in favor, or as low as 53% in favor. While the vote isn’t over until it’s over, it appears that it could very well pass.
Ireland’s social conservatism has been somewhat on the decline in recent years, thanks in large part to scandals within the Catholic Church, which has traditionally had a very strong hold on Ireland. Irish celebrities like Colin Farrell and Bono have come out in favor of legalization as well, which has helped the push. But regardless of the reasons, Ireland’s change is remarkable not only in that it is the first country to likely legalize gay marriage by popular vote, but the first in Europe to even have such a vote: most similar votes have not been on whether to legalize gay marriage, but whether to ban it.
In the meantime, the rest of us hold our breath: tomorrow, Ireland may make human rights history.