The world has now seen that last Friday Ireland voted 62 percent to 38 percent in favor of same-sex marriage. The symbolic significance of the vote can hardly be missed.
Once-Catholic Ireland is now a “modern, tolerant, secular and inclusive” society in the eyes of our peers in the Western world.
Ireland has, in fact, become the first country in the world to vote in favor of same-sex marriage in a national referendum. That’s a remarkable thing.
I was one of the leaders of the No campaign. I am a national newspaper columnist and have been for 21 years. In January 2007, I founded something called The Iona Institute. We are a small think tank dedicated to arguing for the rightful place of religion in public life and for the importance of traditional marriage.
In almost all that time, same-sex marriage (preceded by civil partnerships) has been on the political agenda. Until recently, we were the only organization in the country arguing against same-sex marriage on a consistent basis. More recently, we were joined by Mothers and Fathers Matter (to which I am an adviser).
Arrayed against us was every major political party, all of the mainstream media, every relevant NGO, an army of celebrities, and enormous financial resources.
On our side was a very badly weakened Catholic Church, discredited by the child sex abuse scandals and its own authoritarian part. The Catholic Church did not play a front-of-house role in the campaign because it knew if it did, it would have been counter-productive.
Instead, the Catholic bishops limited themselves to issuing pastoral letters on the subject, which some priests read out at masses and some did not.
The Yes side in the campaign has also benefitted hugely from millions upon millions of American dollars. That money was not spent directly on the campaign, but it didn’t have to be. Instead, it was spent getting us to the point of the referendum.
The money came from an American foundation called Atlantic Philanthropies, and it was used to turn the LGBT lobby into one of the most formidable lobbies the country has ever seen.
The irony is that The Iona Institute has been accused continually down the years of receiving American money in large quantities. Nothing could be further from the truth. The money from America is almost all one way, from the pockets of American liberals into the pockets of Irish liberals.
But the Irish media cared not a whit about the fact that the LGBT lobby here is so lavishly funded with American dollars. As one magazine here noted, it was of about as much interest to them as a minor traffic accident.
Why did we have a referendum on same-sex marriage? The answer is because we had to. Our Constitution has a section in it called “The Family.” This describes the family as the “natural, primary and fundamental unit group of society.” It says the family is founded on marriage. Marriage is not defined in the Constitution as being between a man and a woman, but the courts have always interpreted it in this manner.
Furthermore, our courts have also said the right to marry comes with a constitutionally recognized right to have children.
By changing the Constitution as we have done, the Irish people, whether they know it or not, have now declared that the marriage of two men or two women is as “natural, primary and fundamental” to society as the sexual unions of men and women.
In addition, for the first time in any country ever, two married men or women can go into a court of law and say they have a constitutional right to have children.
The other day, The Iona Institute had the distinction of being quoted in the editorial of The New York Times.
In a statement following the Yes side’s victory, The Iona Institute said, “Going forward, we will continue to affirm the importance of the biological ties and of motherhood and fatherhood.” This was quoted in the editorial. The paper declared, “The absurdity of that statement speaks for itself.”
I hardly know what to make of that statement. Is it absurd to say that the biological ties and motherhood and fatherhood are important, or is it absurd to connect these things to marriage?
Either way, The New York Times quite literally doesn’t know what it is talking about. If it thinks the biological ties and motherhood and fatherhood are not important, that is patently absurd.
And if it thinks these things have no connection to marriage, that only shows how its understanding of marriage has collapsed into absurdity.
The editorial itself was simply an unedifying exercise in liberal triumphalism.
There was also an unedifying aspect to the Yes campaign that was entirely overlooked by the foreign media and almost entirely overlooked by the Irish media.
Roughly 30 percent of posters put up by the No side during the campaign were illegally torn down by Yes side activists who often boasted about it on social media.
Torrents of abuse was directed at No side speakers on social media on a daily basis. The result was that many ordinary No voters were scared to speak to journalists because of what would then be directed at them as a result.
Members of our police force, in full uniform, helped out at voter registration drives on behalf of the Yes side.
The head of Twitter in Ireland called for a Yes vote. Former Irish President Mary McAleese broke with all previous practice by other past presidents by calling for a Yes vote. (Our presidency is largely a ceremonial role.)
In this atmosphere, it was a minor miracle that the No side managed to garner 38 percent of votes cast, amounting to almost 750,000 voters.
If we had any major media on our side or any major political party, the whole business would have been a much closer-run operation.
In any event, it is done. An 87-year-old priest wrote to me Wednesday and expressed very well what happened here in Ireland: “Compassionate care of homosexual people was confused with the nature of marriage.”
I cannot sum it up any better than that.