DUBLIN: On Saturday Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same sex marriage through a national vote.
The weather co-operated. It was a beautiful day.
Today’s New York Times editorial says it all:“Months ago, it seemed to some like a long shot that love, common sense and justice would prevail as voters in Ireland began contemplating whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry under their Constitution. On Friday, love didn’t just prevail across Irish cities and villages. It triumphed....The tide is shifting quickly. Even in unlikely places, love and justice will continue to prevail.”
Final tallies showed that 62% of voters voted Yes in the referendum, a result that’s being described as a social revolution, and a dramatic breaking away from the social influence of the Catholic Church.
There was something in the air, something quite unknown to Ireland's gay community - victory.
In a statement Irish prime minister Enda Kenny said the vote signaled a yes to love and a yes to inclusion. "Ireland is a small country with a big message. Today Ireland made history, I welcome that,” he added.
The scale of change was perhaps best expressed by the most popular Irish broadcaster Vincent Browne whose spirited decision to broadcast the marriage referendum results from the George gay bar, the city’s oldest and best known gay venue was an inspired one.
Behind him some high kicking drag queens sang Patti Labelle’s disco hit Lady Marmalade. Then Bosco, the iconic children’s TV puppet from the 1980’s - and a noted Yes supporter - showed up to cheer on the delighted crowd.
Across town at Dublin Castle the surrealism continued as Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams posed to take a selfie with Miss Panti Bliss, the iconic Irish drag star who helped galvanize the LGBT community and the nation with a speech at Ireland’s National Theatre that helped frame the terms of the referendum debate.
An atmosphere of amused whimsy prevailed around town, with young people tying rainbow flags around their necks as they walked from venue to venue celebrating. On the national evening news the weather forecast showed a giant rainbow covering the country.
It was, as some gay diehards reminded the crowd, also Eurovision night, which is known in the LGBT community as Gay Christmas. The combination of a historic vote to legalize same sex marriage and the opportunity to camp it up over endless dodgy Euro disco tracks tipped many in the crowd over into near euphoria.
Other memorable images at Dublin Castle included a man dressed up as a bishop dancing to ABBA's Waterloo on a boom box. When asked why he explained it was because Ireland's social conservatives were finally facing their Waterloos and he wanted to celebrate it.
On the streets the city’s massive influx of Irish LGBT expats from New York and London and Berlin greeted each other the way that emigrants do, already knowing why they were there and that they would be leaving soon, their mission accomplished.
Gay Irish friends from Manhattan, many unaware of each others determination to return to Ireland and participate in the historic vote, greeted each other with delight all weekend. No explanations were required as they joined the epic street parties that marked Ireland’s gay Bastille Day.
All over Dublin the parties were flowing from gay bars into straight ones with ease, as gay friends celebrated the historic win with their straight allies. Young Irish people have traveled abroad for decades but for the first time they are bringing what they liked about abroad back home with them unapologetically.
Dublin has more than a bit of the social mores and attitudes of New York, Berlin and - now - Scandinavia to show for itself.
The victory was total. In total 1.2 million people voted Yes for same sex marriage, 734,300 voted No and a record 60.4% of the electorate turned out to cast their ballot.
A majority in every county in Ireland voted Yes, except the constituency of Roscommon South Leitrim, where the final vote was No on 51.42 percent.
A total of 1,935,907 votes were counted in 43 constituencies, in the largest turnout since 1937.
Just 23 years after homosexuality was decriminalized it is now legal to marry a partner of the same sex in the Republic of Ireland.
The mood in Dublin - the epicenter of the Yes vote - on Saturday afternoon was jubilant. Thousands of revelers made their way to Dublin Castle in the afternoon sunshine to celebrate in a kind of Irish Spring atmosphere as the they waited for the final results to be read out.
Waiting with them, founding director of the youth LGBT group BeLonGTo Michael Barron told the press, “We’ve changed forever what it means to grow up LGBT in Ireland.”
“The Irish people, via the ballot box, have today given each and every gay child and young person in Ireland – and across the world – a strong and powerful message that they are loved, they are cared for, and don’t need to change who they are.”
Meanwhile back at the George pub the crowd was dancing to David Bowie’s classic hit Heroes as fists hit the air.
The song says that we can be heroes just for one day, but on Saturday Ireland proved they can be each others heroes any time they like.