Tag Archives: same sex marriage

I’m talking about religion, so if you’re easily offended, look away now

In Ireland today there were jubilations and probably quite a few sore heads from last night’s party. Same-sex marriage was voted in by 62% of the people, with a massive turnout of 60%, voters coming home from the UK and even further afield to make their voices heard and drag Ireland into the twenty-first century as a country where gay people are just like other people – entitled to love and announce their love in public.

In Ireland today there were also Confirmations and First Holy Communions – lots of families celebrating traditional rites of passage for their children with parties and lunches and dinners and posh frocks. In the 2011 census, 84.2% of the population identified themselves as Roman Catholic, so I’m talking about a lot of people, not one or two.

Statue of Mary above Irish road signs

Not my photo (click for source)

This means, unsurprisingly, that many people who are bringing their children up in the Catholic faith also voted for gay marriage. A lot of them probably didn’t even think twice about their Yes vote: it was a no-brainer. That might be a bit hard for the rest of the world, and especially others of the Catholic faith, to understand, though.

When I came to the US I was still a card-carrying, Mass-going Catholic. But I discovered that the Church in America was different from the Church in Ireland. I didn’t like it so much. It wasn’t so tolerant. It seemed to think its members should keep all its rules, not just the ones they liked the sound of. It didn’t just let you brush under the carpet the things you disagreed with. It implied, in fact, that if you didn’t want to do Catholicism the way it was intended, the way the Pope said, then you were welcome to go off and be something else instead. A Lutheran, a Methodist, an Anglican, a Unitarian, even. The Unitarians take everyone, even atheists.

So I stopped going to Mass, because things like the plaque outside the church saying we should pray for babies who died from abortions offended my sensibilities. I didn’t agree with everything – I never had; but in Ireland that didn’t really matter, they were always happy to have you. In Ireland my churchgoing was motivated by the comfort of ritual and tradition, but I wasn’t going to show up every Sunday just to be made feel guilty or to be pissed off by all the things I disagreed with that the US Catholic Church seemed determined to throw in my face.

Some time after that I sort of became an atheist, so maybe it had been coming all along.

My point is that the Irish in Ireland for the most part see no contradiction, no difficulty with the fact that on Friday they voted to let gay people get married – in civil ceremonies of course, not in the church – and on Saturday they went to Mass and watched their kids receive a sacrament, helping them make promises to honour the laws of the Church. Even though the Catholic Church officially views homosexuality as disordered and gay sex as contrary to the natural law. It cannot possibly condone gay marriage.

I don’t think the Church in Ireland is in crisis, exactly. The number of people who continue to identify as Catholic shows that. But what they mean is not, perhaps, what the Church might think they mean. They’re cultural Catholics, the way many Jewish people are non-orthodox. (If this is a terrible, awful, insulting, heretical parallel to draw, I apologise. I don’t mean it that way.)

In Ireland, something can be two things at once. It’s one of the beauties of the place. You can have two opposing viewpoints and vehemently believe in both of them. You can be a devout Catholic and also support – no, more than that, be thrilled to tears for – the cause of same-sex marriage. It’s okay.

YES - Thank you


As always when I write about religion, this is just my opinion. I have no intention of disrespecting anyone’s beliefs.

Photo credit: Thesis statues via photopin (license)

Seriously, do I have to say this? Vote YES

I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the converted here. I mean, given the demographic of people I know on social media, I’d say it’s highly unlikely that anyone out there reading this is an Irish person who’s going to vote no in the upcoming referendum.

But you never know. Maybe I need to say it, just in case. Just in case some way I put some words together can make a change somewhere out there. Ripples, ripples.

This Friday, Ireland is voting on same-sex marriage. Ireland, the country where the concept of church-state separation is vague at best, where divorce has only existed since 1996, and where gay sex wasn’t legalised until 1993. We’ve come a long way in a short space of time, but we can do more. We owe it to generations past, and those to come. We owe it to vulnerable teenagers out there right now.

Here are a few points I’d like to make to anyone who might think they have reasons to vote no:

If you think it’s irrelevant to you because you don’t know any gay people, I’m 99.9% sure you’re wrong about that. And even if you’re not, why not just do it anyway, for the sake of happiness? Spread a little love around.

If you think it will lead to gay people getting married in the Catholic church, no, it won’t. It has nothing to do with the Catholic Church’s rules, which stay the way they are. It just means that gay people can be married in the eyes of the law in Ireland. Sure, why not?

If you think it will somehow affect your own marriage, just think about that logically for a second. It won’t make your marriage any less valid. It won’t make anyone have to marry anyone else, gay or not. I’m sure you know that, right?

If you think it will lead to the breakup of the family, I can see that the No campaign has been at you. Children need people who love them. And gay people can already have children and adopt children: this referendum has no bearing on that. This argument is In Valid.

If you think marriage just isn’t that, and that gay people have civil partnerships and that should be enough for them, think again. Marriage may have been defined as between a man and a woman in the past, but we need to move on now that we as a society understand more about real people. We understand that being gay is not a “cool” life choice, it’s not a rebellion, it’s not (god help us) a perversion or an abomination. If you thought you didn’t know any gay people, that’s because it’s something they always felt they had to deny, or at least ignore, in your presence. In society’s presence. Because they felt they were somehow, through no fault of their own, second-class citizens.

So tell them they’re not. Tell them that they get to stand up and shout to the rafters that they love this person and they’re going to marry them, just as loudly as you did (or maybe you whispered it to the stars instead, but you weren’t ashamed of it), because they’re people who get to love and be loved in the light of day.

Their mammies get to buy a hat for the big day out. Don’t deny the mammies that.