What We Can Learn from Ireland’s Big Win

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Thanks to over a million registered voters who got their asses to the polls, Ireland is now a country that will recognize same sex marriage. Witnessing the momentum we are gaining in the way of LGBT equality is thrilling. Throughout history, we’ve been among the underdogs–the team that trains hard and exerts all of our energy in battle, but, in many cases, continues to meet staunch opposition.

Of course there have been victories along the way, for which we are proud and we are grateful. And the idea that the recognition of same sex marriage is still a much debated topic is outrageous. Despite the fact that we are far from being finished with our work in moving toward equality, we are cautiously pleased with the great strides of progress we have seen and are continuing to see.

As we, in the United States, continue in our battle for marriage equality while holding our breaths for the Supreme Court decision, I can’t help but marvel at the accomplishments of the Irish. The Catholic Church has a tremendous hold on the culture of Ireland. It seems that the more conservative side of Irish Catholicism served as a strong enemy of the movement for recognition of same sex marriage–one so significant that a win might have, at times, seemed insurmountable. We, in the US, know all too well how powerful religion can be and that, all too often, its followers use it to discriminate and marginalize. Religious extremism is becoming more and more of a danger to our society and, while I would never suggest that every Catholic has been guilty of this, I imagine it to have been an obstacle. While many of us cower in the face of the power religion may hold, marriage equality advocates of Ireland managed to look extreme Catholicism in the eye with the confidence that, as we say, love would win–and it did.

In the evolution of the marriage equality movement in the United States, we have seen a considerable uprising of people and organizations that are determined to stand in the way of progress. Organized religion, Christianity to be specific, has been at the forefront of this. Please do not mistake my statement to be sweeping; I know there are a great many progressive and gay-affirming Christians out there. Bless them. They are, of course, not to be held responsible for the flaws of their often louder and more glaring associates. But, the more extreme followers of Christianity have formed a firm adversary to a fight we have long deserved to win. While the arguments and commentary said opposition has used to support their ideology are ridiculous at best, there remains to be a fair amount of people who continue to buy into the nonsense.

My point is, in our battle for marriage equality, a significant part of our opposition may not be too different from that of Ireland. We struggle to stand our ground against religious extremism; Ireland presumably struggled to stand its ground against religious extremism. So, why has Ireland managed to find success while we’re still hoping for the best in the upcoming decision? I wonder if we’ve made mistakes along the way in offering too much tolerance and understanding to our adversaries. I know, I know –“tolerance” and “understanding” are typically words we use to our benefit. But, I’m concerned that we may also be encouraging our own to “tolerate” and “understand” the Sally Kerns and Mike Huckabees of this country. Excuse me, why exactly must I tolerate hate? Why do I need to understand and sympathize with prejudice? Sorry, not interested.

All too often when yet another of our country’s leaders makes a statement which attempts to justify exclusionary marriage, I immediately hear members of our very own LGBT/ally community offering that “everyone is entitled to their opinion” or “they have their own beliefs just like we do.” I just can’t get behind the idea that I’m obligated to accept hate as nothing more than a difference of opinion.

What if, instead of demanding our rights, we’ve coddled the enemy in its willful ignorance? What if we’ve been too patient in allowing for people in this country to take their sweet time in coming around to the not so novel idea that is nothing more than basic equality? I study Buddhism and New Age philosophies; I can love the unlovable with the best of them. But, I also know the importance of having a backbone. I know that, without bold acts of civil disobedience and demanding nothing less than what is deserved, no movement toward equality would have ever been accomplished. I am daring to speculate that Irish LGBTs and their allies did not secure the right to marry for same sex couples by tolerating the discrimination of its enemy. I would imagine that Irish LGBTs and their allies believed in their souls that they were fighting for human rights and that nothing less than the right to marry would be acceptable.

In the Irish battle of equality vs. extremism, equality won. So, let’s take a cue from the land of the jig and Jameson whisky. Let’s buck up and take what’s rightfully ours. Let’s put an end to indulging oppression and demand our rights, religious extremism be damned.

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