News & Politics

Marriage Equality in Ireland is Bad for Minorities in the World



It was a wonderful day for most citizens of Ireland on Saturday, May 23rd because the people voted in favor of marriage equality. The news spread quickly as gays and allies alike waited for the results. After months of campaigning and articles and viral videos, the majority of the people granted equal rights to a minority.

Wait, that doesn’t sound so good when I say it like that. A majority voting on the equal rights of a minority? Isn’t that what we in the United States have been railing against? Isn’t the Supreme Court currently debating the constitutionality of banning same-sex marriage because no state should have the power to deny their citizens equal rights?

Unfair, you say, to compare U.S. politics to Irish politics. After all, Ireland is a Catholic country. How can we expect a country whose culture and laws are so deeply seated in Catholicism to extend equal rights to a group of people who live in defiance of Catholicism? Ah, but while the majority of the citizens of the Republic of Ireland are indeed Catholic, the government is not run by the church–like say in England or Spain, two countries where church and state are not separate and where marriage extends to all citizens. But in Ireland, a parliamentary democracy rules as opposed to the Catholic Church, a parliamentary democracy that upholds a constitution.

What’s in that Constitution, you ask? Much as the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland mandates and protects the fundamental rights of each citizen.

The Constitution outlines what are considered the fundamental rights of the citizen. These constitutional rights cover five broad headings: personal rights, the family, education, private property and religion.

Reading the details of each category, anyone can see how same-sex marriage might be argued either way by various factions. There are provisions that speak to the “morality” of the institution of marriage. There are “unenumerated rights” that the courts have defended that stem specifically from the Christian nature of the Sate. However, the Constitution states that all citizens are equal before the law and guarantees to defend and vindicate the personal rights of citizens in its laws. The Constitution does NOT state that if there is a question about whether any one population should not benefit from equal rights, those rights should be put to a popular vote. The Parliament is solely responsible for making laws, laws that protect the people. The people are not supposed to be responsible for making laws to protect themselves.

It was a cowardly move, really, to wash their hands of the dirty business of declaring gay people to be equal to heterosexual people. The government packaged that vote as a gift of empowerment, and the people thanked the Irish government for allowing them the privilege to vote on the rights of a minority.

Majority tyranny exists all over the world and should remind us all that minority groups are vulnerable and in need of protection, protection that sits above the will of the majority.

In the end, the people of Ireland voted for marriage equality, and the right-minded majority celebrated. Some of us, however, found the entire process highly disturbing, as a dangerous precedent was set. Should we praise a government for allowing the people to vote on the rights of a minority so that they didn’t have to answer to any disenfranchised or angry constituents?

Ultimately, the vote last week reflected a shift in cultural thinking, which favored marriage equality. Hoorah. I am sincerely very happy for all those in Ireland who are now able to enjoy marital rights. I’m disappointed in the Irish government for that pusillanimous vote, however, and I hope that other countries that espouse equal rights for their citizens actually have the courage to pass laws that support and protect those equal rights, regardless of the number of people they might piss off by doing so.

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