People Polished the Stone of the Irish Emerald Isle

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The gay pride parade in Dublin, Ireland.

For the first time anywhere in the world, the people of the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to codify same-sex marriage. Above, the Pride Parade in Dublin, Ireland, 2009. Credit: CreativeCommons / Charles Hutchins.

Though the Catholic Church has scratched, tarnished, and clouded the stone that is the Emerald Isle with its wheel of oppression, the people have spoken loudly and clearly, and by so doing, have dismantled some of the spokes on that wheel and have polished the stone to brilliance once again.
In what can only be seen as an historic vote, for the first time anywhere in the world, the people of the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly, by a majority of 62 percent to 38 percent, to sanction marriage for same-sex couples with all the legal benefits and responsibilities already granted to different-sex couples (thereby dismantling a spoke on the wheel of Catholic oppression). An estimated 60.5 percent of the eligible 3.2 million registered voters turned out to the polls. Though the Irish government passed civil partnership legislation in 2010, which could have been rescinded by future legislative actions, this popular referendum now constitutionally codifies the legal standing of same-sex couples.
In another clear defiance of the doctrines and warnings of the very powerful Catholic Church, a similar referendum was taken in 1993, which for the first time in that country decriminalized same-sex sexuality (dismantling another spoke), and in 1995, legalized divorce (dismantling yet another spoke). The government finally approved the sale of contraceptives in 1985 after a complete and then partial ban for over 55 years (there went yet another spoke).
Marriage for same-sex couples currently holds legal standing in 19 countries and in 37 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
This momentous victory in the largely Catholic Republic of Ireland stands as one additional sign of a paradigm shift away from the political, religious, and social conservativism of the not-to-distance past, to a nation demanding entry into a more progressive and forward-leaning future. This is a victory not only for same-sex couples and their families, but for all people in the Republic of Ireland by standing firm against the tyranny imposed by the Catholic Church as far back as the 5th century of the Common Era.
I use the term “tyranny” quite deliberately. When the populous must follow the dogma of the Catholic Church turned into law within the formerly not-so-quasi theocracy of the Republic of Ireland, whether or not people chose the Church, this is a form of tyranny. Whenever any government dictates as law its interpretation of divine commands, this is a form of tyranny, whether coming from ancient times to the current era, from the Persians, Assyrians, Canaanites, Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, Celts, Scandinavians, Christian Crusaders, Ottomans, to Islamic Jihadists, Fascists, Nazis, orthodox monotheists, nationalists and neo-nationalists of every stripe.
All people must have the right to believe as they wish, anywhere in the world. Religion and spirituality for some people centers or grounds them in a complex and often confusing cosmos. It helps some people understanding the important and mystical questions of life, and aids in connecting them with forces outside and greater than themselves. But when organized religious institutions and groups impose their dogma upon others, they have crossed (no pun intended) a critical line. That is when the energy of the wheel they have constructed tramples over the rights and the lives of others.
The people of the Republic of Ireland have taken it upon themselves to erect an impenetrable and high wall separating religion and government. It is now up to the Catholic Church to listen to the voice of the people, or else it will consign itself to the endangered species list.

Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).