Ireland First Nation to Embrace Same-Sex Marriage by Popular Vote, Religious Freedom Issues Ahead

Today, Ireland became the first nation in the world to approve a constitutional right to same-sex marriage by popular vote.

"With the final ballots counted, the vote was 62-to-38 percent in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage," The New York Times reported.

"The turnout was large — more than 60 percent of the 3.2 million people eligible cast ballots, and only one district voted the measure down." 

The Iona Institute, which led opposition to the referendum, extended congratulations to the activists, who spearheaded the ballot initiative in favor of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. But the institute's press release noted unresolved concerns about religious freedom.

"Commenting on the outcome, David Quinn said: 'We believe [we] fought a good campaign. It was always going to be an uphill battle. However, we helped to provide a voice to the hundreds of thousands of Irish people who did vote No. The fact that no political party supported them must be a concern from a democratic point of view,'" read the institute's press release.

"He concluded: 'Going forward, we will continue to affirm the importance of the biological ties and of motherhood and fatherhood. We hope the Government will address the concerns voters on the No side have about the implications for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.'”

In the days leading up the referendum, Catholic church leaders in Ireland urged the faithful to carefully reflect on the matter.

 A joint statement signed by the nation's Catholic bishops challenged  an effort to put a "union of two men, or two women, on a par with the marriage relationship between a husband and wife which is open to the procreation of children.” 

If same-sex marriage became legal, the bishops warned, the shift would make it “increasingly difficult to speak any longer in public about marriage as being between a man and a woman. What will we be expected to teach children in school about marriage? Will those who sincerely continue to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman be forced to act against their conscience?”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin issued a pastoral letter, which echoed these concerns. He said, "There is 'a unique complementarity between men and women, male and female, rooted in the very nature of our humanity.  I believe that this complementarity belongs to the fundamental definition of marriage,'” reported Vatican Radio, but other newsoutets emphasized the broad cultural shift in Ireland that has severely weakened the Church's influence.

Further, the government threw its support behind the referendum. And many supporters framed it as an important step that would discourage the bullying of persons with same-sex attraction.

“A yes vote costs the rest of us nothing. A no vote costs our gay children everything,” former President Mary McAleese said at a gay rights event in Dublin, the Washington Post reported, noting that McAleese was speaking about her own son.