A large majority of voters have approved gay marriage:
Ireland’s citizens have voted in a landslide to legalize gay marriage, electoral officials announced Saturday–a stunningly lopsided result that illustrates what Catholic leaders and rights activists alike called a “social revolution.”
Friday’s referendum saw 62.1 percent of Irish voters say “yes” to changing the nation’s constitution to define marriage as a union between two people regardless of their sex. Outside Dublin Castle, watching the results announcement in its cobblestoned courtyard, thousands of gay rights activists cheered, hugged and cried at the news.
It wasn’t that long ago that Ireland was basically a Catholic theocracy. Now we find Church representatives talking like this:
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the “overwhelming vote” against church teaching on gay marriage meant that Catholic leaders in Ireland needed urgently to find a new message and voice for reaching Ireland’s young.
“It’s a social revolution. … The church needs to do a reality check right across the board,” said Martin, who suggested that some church figures who argued for gay marriage’s rejection came across as harsh, damning and unloving, the opposite of their intention.
“Have we drifted completely away from young people?” he asked. “Most of those people who voted ‘yes’ are products of our Catholic schools for 12 years.”
David Quinn, leader of the Catholic think tank Iona Institute, said he was troubled by the fact that no political party and only a half-dozen politicians backed the “no” cause.
“The fact that no political party supported them must be a concern from a democratic point of view,” he said.
Mr. Martin frets that the Church’s rejection of gay marriage came across as harsh, damning and unloving. How else could it come across? The problem is with the message, not with the messaging.
Recently I spent some time here considering the “natural law” arguments against gay marriage, and I was gearing up to do another such post in response to replies like this one from Vincent Torley at Uncommon Descent. As is typical for Torley, the post is very, very long. I would encourage him to master the art of breaking up lengthy posts into more manageable chunks, at least if he wants people to read and respond to him. Much of the post is given over to crude stereotypes of gay people, and much of what remains is based on putting words in my mouth.
Ultimately, though, I think the case for gay marriage can be expressed perfectly in just a single sentence:
Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin, a Cork politician whose opposition party is traditionally closest to the Catholic Church, said he couldn’t in good conscience back the anti-gay marriage side.
“It’s simply wrong in the 21st century to oppress people because of their sexuality,” he said.
The anti-gay marriage forces are being overtaken by reality. The experiment has been done. Gay marriage has now been around for long enough and in enough places, that we could reasonably expect any harmful consequences to have shown themselves. There have been no such consequences, of course. The pseudo-intellectual, abstract, philosophical discourses of the natural law crowd can be met point by point on the merits, but it’s so much easier just to point to the empirical facts of the real world. If your abstract theorizing leads to the conclusion that legalizing gay marriage is a threat to society, then your theorizing is wrong. You may as well argue that no one can run a four-minute mile or that bumblebees cannot fly.
There is a parallel here with those who fear that as theistic belief wanes in a society, so too does its commitment to morality. Good philosophical reasons can be adduced for finding this fear unwarranted, but it’s so much simpler, again, just to point to reality. The experiment has been done, and our findings are the exact opposite of what we had been told to fear. The most scrupulously secular nations, and the ones with the highest percentage of self-described non-believers, are precisely the ones with the strongest commitment to social justice, decency, and morality.
Congratulations to Ireland for this victory for common sense and decency!