By Pamela Eapen:
In a world where homophobia is still largely prevalent, Ireland has proved a victor in the crusade for gay rights. Recently, Ireland made history as the first country to approve same-sex marriage through a referendum, or popular vote. The significance of this becomes even greater when one considers how strongly the country has been influenced in the past by the Roman Catholic Church, a largely anti-gay institution, to the point where homosexuality was only decriminalised as recently as 1993.
Until now, gay couples in Ireland were forced either to hide their relationships or migrate to more liberal countries (this was similar to the restrictive nature of the still-present Eighth Amendment, which states that women cannot have abortions unless the pregnancy becomes life-threatening; or unless they go overseas to have the procedure done) until 2010, when the Civil Partnership Act was enacted. Civil partnership still meant that same-sex couples were not allowed to have legally recognised relationships with their non-biological children, or to have the same social support that married couples did – until last Saturday.
This has not been the only successful case of the promotion of gay rights this year. On May 17 Xavier Bettel, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, became the second government leader since Iceland’s Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir to marry a spouse of the same sex while still in office. Bettel declared that he “didn’t want to hide [his] life … as a prime minister for all the people“. Society has truly come a long way with regards to gay rights that world leaders can now publicly affirm their love towards their spouses no matter what gender they are.
Making even more waves on the scene of positive homosexual publicity is the incident of an Indian mother placing the first ever gay matrimonial ad in a newspaper for her son. In a country where homosexuality was re-criminalized in 2013, this bold move will hopefully prove inspiration for many more of the LGBTQI community to have the courage to put themselves forward. Despite the caste-related undertones of the ad, most were overjoyed and applauded Padma Iyer for her progressive action.
It has been a year of many remarkable firsts in the gay community, and now we eagerly anticipate the seconds, and the thirds. Ireland has not ceased their campaign for a progressive society with this game-changing referendum – many are in favour of repealing the hated Eighth Amendment to make abortion legal. With more and more countries in the world freeing themselves from traditionalist restraints to consider the actual needs of their citizens, the sometimes seemingly-unreachable dream of human equality is closer than it has ever been before. Ireland can be proud – they’re tipping the scales in favour of equality.