Congratulations Ireland, and well done by the Irish people for choosing the side of equality!
If I knew how to say marriage equality in Gaelic, I would have titled this post differently, but today is already shaping up to be a historic day across the pond in Ireland.
Voters in the Republic of Ireland are heading to the polls today to vote on a landmark referendum – to ask the people of Ireland to change the country’s constitution to allow for same-sex marriage. If passed, Ireland would become the first country to adopt same-sex marriage through popular vote.
A simple “yes” or “no” vote on the question: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”
If more say “yes” than say “no,” the change to the constitution will give gay and lesbian couples the right to civil marriage, but not to be wed in a church.
Not surprisingly, the issue is a polarizing one, as it has been around the world. Ireland is an interesting dynamic – a majority Catholic nation heavily rooted in tradition voting on what many consider to be a liberal cause. The “yes” campaign had been polling strongly all along, but support has diminished somewhat as the day of the actual vote has arrived.
The Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has indicated his strong support for the referendum and has indicated he plans to vote “yes” today.
I can only hope that the people of Ireland will do the right thing today and affirm the equality of their LGBT brothers and sisters by allowing them civil marriages, but the vote highlights a fundamental issue. Allowing the majority to vote on the rights of a minority group is problematic – an argument that has been made several times in the United States, particularly in Massachusetts, compelling lawmakers and judges to intervene. No better example exists but with the passage of the now overturned Proposition 8 in California. Hopefully I’ll be able to update this post later today with good news!
It’s almost like Huffington Post read my blog piece titled “the fight continues….” and then decided to write an article about what other LGBT rights still need to be won (assuming the Supreme Court rules for marriage equality).
You can check out the article here, but here’s the short list…
1. Workplace discrimination
2. Lack of gender-neutral restrooms in public places
3. Gay conversion therapy
4. Housing discrimination
5. Acceptance in sports, politics, entertainment, business and more
6. Health risks, and education about how to lower them
7. Restrictions on gay men giving blood
8. Jury selection
9. Transgender military service
10. Youth homelessness
11. Adoption, custody, surrogacy and other parenting issues
12. Discrimination of youth in foster care
14. Placement and treatment of trans people in prisons and immigrant detention centers
15. Discrimination in jails and prisons
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely noticed an increasing number of stories in the media about LGBT rights in one vein or another. Whether it’s the looming US Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, the backlash in Indiana over the passage of a “religious freedom” act, or Bruce Jenner’s announcement, LGBT America and its cause is increasingly entering the media spotlight, for better or for worse.
Not surprisingly, there is debate and contention within the community about rights, although most agree that marriage equality is essentially a done deal. Barring a surprise from the US Supreme Court, which is largely expected to rule that there is a constitutional right to marriage for LGBT Americans, marriage equality will essentially be “won”. If you don’t believe me, you only need look at opinion polls. In fact, the good people at Gallup just released a public opinion poll (see below) indicating that support for marriage equality, which has steadily been gaining ground, is now at an all-time high.
But the debate in the community isn’t about whether marriage equality will be had, but whether marriage equality was the “best right” to fight for in the first place. Some within the community feel that marriage equality is the end all and be all of rights. Sadly they remain misguided, for while gays and lesbians may soon be able to marry in every state, they can just as easily be fired from their job or kicked out of their apartment in the vast majority of states (see below) The federal government still has not passed an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity.
It’s clear that the fight for LGBT equality is no where close to being over and that it does not end with marriage equality. There is cause for hope though. Certainly, the backlash in Indiana and the resultant “fix” to the state’s Religious Freedom law was not only from the LGBT community but also from business leaders and other allies fighting against discrimination. Utah – yes Utah – passed an anti-discrimination bill in March that was actually backed by the Mormon Church. Just this week, Oregon became the third state to ban gay-conversion therapy. And California Representative Ted Lieu also introduced a bill in Congress to end the practice of gay conversion therapy across the country.
But we as a community would be remiss to think that the fight ends with marriage. As Michelangelo Signorile has pointed out (and aptly named his newest book), it’s not over. And even before marriage equality becomes the law of the land, we should be asking ourselves… what’s next?