I have to admit, I was half-prepared to be writing a piece on shame and disappointment this morning. There was a large chunk of my brain that feared Ireland wouldn’t pull through and approve the referendum on marriage equality, but I am very relieved that is not the case.
What a great time to be alive! Watching footage of the sheer joy exploding throughout the country will never get old. So it seems the polls were pretty accurate and Ireland is making history – positive history.
Social media has been inundated with pleas and revelations over the past few weeks, and has now turned to photographs of beaming faces and excited thanks. One friend wrote, “I absolutely love Irish weddings, and now there’s going to be twice as many – YES!”
We’re all a bit chuffed, and can give ourselves a well-deserved pat on the back. As for the 700,000 people who voted no, I hope that over the next few years they will see enough incredibly happy and deserving families to change their minds.
I’m especially excited about the friends abroad who can now move back to Ireland and start their families here. I was visiting London last weekend where I would usually find a clatter of Irish milling around, but of course they had all flown home this weekend to vote (I made sure to vote before I flew).
A huge quantity of our generation and graduate year in particular are abroad at the moment, tucked away in various corners of the world becoming brilliant at multiple things. The majority are in London, with another sizable sum in New York, and a few more dabbled around mainland Europe and even some scatterings across Asia and Australia.
There’s nothing unusual about graduates going abroad for a certain period of time. There’s something very unusual about being unable to come home, or feeling unwelcome.
I never had any doubt that I would come back to Ireland if I ever wanted to start a family – which is still miles off the radar – and I’m not alone in that general plan. So for those emigrants who had to leave and start their families elsewhere, the yes vote may be a little too late – but for those who are now given the chance, this week is extra special.
Across the country, the reaction has been predominantly positive. Naturally there has been some retaliation from the no campaign, and unsurprisingly there was another classic Breda O’Brien piece in The Irish Times with a hideously faux-empathic story hypothesising the future of a child with two mothers. She describes this girl wandering the streets of Copenhagen, knowing her father was a Danish donor and looking at every passing face searching for her biological identity.
“It would have happened anyway, regardless of the amendment. But she also has to deal with the crushing fact that in 2015, her fellow Irish citizens voted for it and affirmed this arrangement that deprived her of half her identity. They voted that it was natural, primary and fundamental, and enshrined it into the Constitution,” O’Brien wrote.
It will never fail to amaze me how people can so easily presume to know and understand things of which they have no experience, and also to invent and imagine realities that don’t exist. This is the hypothetical, whimsical and entirely unrealistic story (wandering the whole of Copenhagen – really?) of any child who has been adopted, fostered, conceived by a donor or surrogacy or whatever other way parents have done their best to bring a child into this world so that they can love it to pieces. We did not put a tick on a ballot so that kids in 20 years’ time could lose themselves in Europe having an identity crisis.
Straight parents can also cause problems for their children, and can raise little monsters. Hitler’s parents were straight. I know people who are adopted and who have no interest in finding their biological parents. I also know people who are adopted and have met their biological parents later in life and it has been fine. Weird, but fine.
I hope that all of the LGBT people out there who cannot wait to have babies to cherish and love see this Copenhagen fairy tale as the nonsense that it is. Also, that all of the incredible humans out there adopting, fostering and generally doing a pretty stellar job of raising their children can turn a blind eye to this highly insulting attitude. It must be easy for O’Brien, as a straight woman who is married with four children, to decide that any other way of surrounding yourself with people who love and need you is inherently wrong.
The Westboro Baptist Church in the U.S. also sent us some astonishingly offensive tweets, but the sheer lack of respect and the pathetic nature of Twitter as a means of delivering any meaningful communication has ridiculed the whole thing. Apparently God hates Ireland now because the state has legalized marriage equality. The state, not the church. The Catholic Church remains untouched guys: you can all relax.
However, for the most part all is relatively quiet on the western front. That is the whole point of a referendum – only one side can win. And if you’re going to have the grace to respect other peoples’ opinions in the lead-up, and exact your right to vote, then you have to gracefully accept the result, whether the outcome suits you or not.
This is a great time to be Irish, regardless of what side you are on, because we have made history. It might not be a history that everyone likes right now, but this is an outstanding achievement, and I do have faith that even more of that 700,000 will eventually come around.