A friend who lives in Ireland wrote me the day after Ireland approved gay marriage. I loved what she said and asked her permission to post it here. She said yes, so here you go:
Today was historically significant here in Ireland. Ireland is often viewed as a reactionary, religious backwater; e.g. civil divorce has only been legal since 1996, and abortion is still not legal. Women in Ireland can travel to England for abortions, they can legally sneak around the law as a result of the X case. A young girl, aged 13, became pregnant after rape. Social services wanted to send her to England for an abortion. Recently, Savita Halappenavaar, who was refused an abortion even though her life was at risk, died at Galway General Hospital. Her husband said they were told that the pregnancy could not be terminated because "this is a Catholic country".Indeed. Thanks to my anonymous friend for allowing me to share this with readers.
While Ireland fought for independence, a glorious ideal, it developed into a theocracy after the war in 1921, and a subsequent Civil War that ended a year later. It did have some trappings of a democratic country, but the government always had to allow for control from Rome in family matters. It is said that in 1936, when then-President DeValera wrote the Constitution, that he modelled it on the much-admired American Constitution, but that although he had almost complete autonomy, he had to accept the input and the control of the archbishop, or as I refer to him, the "evil archbishop".The Constitution, while exalting the family, allowed for the state, in a multitude of situations, to show a lack of compassion for what amounted to state-sanctioned cruelty. The constitution was fundamentally unfair to women, to unmarried fathers, to orphans, to gay people, etc. The church apparatus, with the evil archbishop as its totem, destroyed attempts to socialise medicine here. The "mother and child" scheme threatened the Church's power. Interestingly, Ireland happily jumped on the fanatically anti-communist witch-hunt bandwagon in the United States in the 1950's.
However, today, Ireland should be proud of itself! The people have voted in a new Constitutional Amendment allowing gay marriage. Previously, gay couples could have some sort of civil contract, but now they can get married if they want. I think that rules on surrogacy will still have to be worked out but I am really happy about this new development - although it won't change the past for those who suffered through criminalisation, cruelty and bullying, it will certainly make for a happier future.