Thousands of LGBT people in Ireland are having their lives and future happiness put to the public vote today. For those of us who have canvassed, gone door to door knocking and phoning friends and family, today has been gut wrenching. There are over 3.2 million people entitled to vote. My social media feeds are jam-packed with of photos of Dublin airport flooded with expats returning to make the pilgrimage to the polling station. Twitter has exploded with hashtags including #HomeToVote, #MakeGráTheLaw, #YesEquality2015 and many more. The excitement in the air is palpable.
Ireland is the first country ever to put the question of marriage equality to public vote with a national referendum. The Constitution will need to be amended to extend civil marriage to LGBT people, therefore, despite support from all major political parties, the referendum is a necessary legal requirement. The current common law definition of marriage in the Republic of Ireland is "the voluntary union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others". A 'Yes' vote will redefine who can marry by extending the right to same-sex couples.
The 'No' campaign is being headed up and funded by the Catholic Church and the Iona Institute, a powerful and prominent Catholic lobbying group. Former President Mary McAleese, a devout Catholic, who has studied Canon Law in the Vatican and has an openly gay son, highlighted the hypocrisy of the Church over its opposition to same-sex civil marriage. The Church does not even recognise such a marriage between heterosexual Catholics, pointing to an intrinsic flaw in the argument. Polls are showing that it is going to be an extremely close vote, so there won't be any room to relax until the results are revealed on Saturday.
North of the border, the LGBT community in Northern Ireland is watching closely. The question of Marriage Equality has been debated and rejected in our Parliament four times. Personally, I live a 5 minute walk from the border, but as a citizen of Northern Ireland, myself and many like me are enduring the agonising wait without actually having a vote in the referendum. However, this vote could have a profound impact upon the future of LGBT rights in Northern Ireland. If religious fundamentalists see equality come to pass in the South, witness first hand that the sky hasn't fallen in, 'the children' are fine and they haven't become any less married to their spouse of the opposite sex, they might just realise that supporting equality isn't such a bad thing; maybe even the Christian thing to do. It'll leave Northern Ireland as the last part of the British Isles to exclude LGBT people from the right to marry. Hopefully, highlighting the injustice and absurdity of the situation.
It's popular politico lore that people who vote for the status quo are far less likely to come out to the polling stations when it's raining. We could use all the help we can get. For the first time in my life, I'm looking skyward, praying for a downpour.
This blog was written Mary Hassan. Her views are entirely her own.