*This post is a repost of a piece I wrote for the Ógra Fianna Fáil website – click here to see the original piece. I like to keep my politics and my blog work separate, which is why I’ve made one or two changes to the piece below.
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It’s fair to say that LGBT Pride marches haven’t been as traditional in Ireland as they have been in other cities and countries around the world for the last number of decades. Those Pride festivals most prominent in my memory were the ones I would see covered in newspapers, like San Francisco and London. As a child, I remembered thinking how pretty all the colours were and how everyone taking part looked like they were having a great time. Of course, it did not dawn on a child to think such a colourful and populated march would be intertwined with a community’s fight for their equal rights as citizens. It just looked fun!
Fast forward to Dublin Pride 2015. My third or fourth Pride march in so many years. I can see a definite shift in the mood of 2014 and 2015 from both onlookers and those marching. During the 2014 Pride marches I took part in, there was a mixed feeling of, well, pride obviously, for our friends, co-workers, neighbours, parents etc. But there was a definite underlying feeling of foreboding as well, a feeling I would attribute to the knowledge that a referendum on equal marriage rights was coming down the line. Even in twenty-first century Ireland, a society that was largely (though not entirely) accepting of all lifestyles and communities, there was a distinct feeling of fear at the fact that those who stand both with them and against them in society were to vote on extending civil marriage rights to same sex couples. A fear that those born with civil marriage rights by virtue of their heterosexuality, those who are somewhat oblivious to the difficulties and discrimination faced by LGBT people and their families, would soon be deciding on the rights of one group in society. That would make anyone nervous – right?
There was a difference in Pride 2015, and the world in which we live could not be more different. Different yet exactly the same in many respects. Different, because Ireland had voted to extend civil marriage rights to all her citizens, different because both our LGBT friends and their allies alike had come together to ask Irelands public to treat them all as one, and to help bring an end to discrimination and hateful attitudes towards LGBT people, families and couples. And Ireland delivered on this call for equality – with a 62.07% vote to allow all her citizens equal marriage rights. I like to think that even the United States delivered on Ireland’s vote for equality – that weekend, a little over five weeks since the Marriage Equality referendum, was marked by the United States Supreme Court declaring that marriage equality was a right befitting each and every citizen of the States. I like to consider our little nation a bit of a trail blazer in that respect, don’t you?
But in some respects things are the same: the same because our LGBT friends’ relationships are just as valued to us and them as they always were, things are the same because, well, hell hasn’t frozen over Ireland because of a Yes vote. And things are the same because a vote to extend civil marriage rights to same sex couples hasn’t led to the loss of legitimacy of heterosexual marriages as was warned by some – my parents happy marriage of 27 years wasn’t instantly invalidated just because my friend and her girlfriend now have the explicit right by law to become wife and wife! We have a lot to celebrate as a nation during this Pride Month and beyond.
We assisted in mobilising a majority to help in the fight for rights of a minority, and no matter what the cause was behind it, we should take pride in ourselves for that too. I hope that this fight can take place in other parts of society where there are still major inequalities to be dealt with; education, disability rights, children’s rights, parental rights… the list goes on. If Ireland could mobilise itself again to fight these societal inequalities and to help put an end to them, well, that would be a power worth harnessing.