On March 22nd, the Republic of Ireland will hold a referendum on whether or not to amend its constitution to permit same-sex marriage. The historic vote will take place amidst a heated culture war between LGBTQ equality supporters and same-sex marriage opponents. Polls show that a majority of Irish respondents support a "yes" vote in favor of same-sex marriage, but opponents of same-sex marriage remain undaunted.
Irish Catholic leaders have firmly opposed an amendment to legalize same-sex marriage. For example, in a March 10th statement, the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference rejected the idea of an amendment to the Irish constitution legalizing same-sex marriage. "We cannot support an amendment to the Constitution which redefines marriage and effectively places the union of two men, or two women, on a par with the marriage relationship between a husband and wife which is open to the procreation of children," the Bishops Conference wrote. In a May 16th pastoral letter, Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly worried that a same-sex marriage victory would introduce a "profound change" in how society understands parenthood and family, making it it "difficult to speak about marriage as it has been traditionally understood".
Other Irish and British Religious Right groups are raising their voices as the voting day approaches. The Guardian reports that evangelical leaders are encouraging their congregants to vote against same-sex marriage. The Irish Times reports that the Evangelical Cross Denominational Response to the Same-Sex Marriage Referendum distributed 20,000 pamphlets to over 100 churches across Ireland. According to Newsweek and Her Magazine, the Alliance for the Defence of the Family and Marriage (ADFAM) distributed leaflets in Dublin blasting same-sex marriage, claiming that gays are cancer-prone and that same-sex unions tend to be "very short-lived, and promiscuous".
ADFAM also held a press conference in Dublin last week to oppose same-sex marriage. Gerard van den Aardweg, a Dutch psychologist with ties to the U.S.-based National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH), spoke at the event. According to the Irish Times, van den Aardweg rejected the idea that sexual orientation is innate. "No one is born that way. Gay children do not exist, another propaganda item," he said. Dr. van den Aardweg reportedly claimed that the Nazi party was "rooted" in gays and that powerful organizations seek to impose homosexuality across the globe. (Hat tip to SPLC Hatewatch.)
Members of the so-called "ex-gay" movement had something to say about the Irish referendum. According to the Irish Journal, Mike Davidson of Core Issues Trust (a British "ex-gay" organization) was scheduled to speak at an event in early May entitled "Yes or No, a Faith Perspective on Issues Concerning Same-Sex Marriage". However, event organizer Bill Hamilton told the Irish Journal that the hotel had withdrawn use of its facilities.
Even the American Religious Right is speaking out against same-sex marriage in Ireland. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is encouraging its followers to support anti-LGBTQ activists in Ireland.
"Remember — increasingly the battle to preserve marriage is becoming a global one. While the Obama administration aggressively ties American foreign policy to advancing the gay agenda worldwide, most countries in the world strongly are opposed to redefining marriage ... If traditional marriage supporters can manage to pull off a victory in Ireland, it will be a tremendous boost to the cause of marriage worldwide. Please do what you can to bring awareness to their efforts."I'm continually amazed at the parallels between American and international Religious Right activists. Fear-mongering, stale arguments, and an adamant refusal to abandon absurd positions characterize Religious Right voices in the U.S. and abroad. Is it because the Religious Right networks globally? Or is it because Religious Right figures live with the same fear and loathing whatever their nationality?
If polls are anything to go by, the odds are in favor of a "yes" vote on Friday. If Ireland votes in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, it will serve as a major victory for the global LGBTQ rights movement. A victory will also serve as a reminder that the Catholic Church no longer has iron-clad control over the opinions of the Irish populace. (Considering the sordid history of Catholic institutions in Ireland, this is a good thing.) In Ireland, as in America, Religious Right voices will find themselves increasingly marginalized as their country marches toward a more enlightened future.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Inquisitr: Despite U.S. Christian Group’s Interference, Ireland Likely To Pass Marriage Equality — By Vote
The Guardian: U.S. Christians ‘bankrolling’ no campaign in Ireland’s gay marriage referendum
NBC News: Ireland Same-Sex Marriage Referendum Sets Government Against Church
New York Times: Ireland’s Marriage Equality Moment