Conservative, Catholic Ireland Votes On Same-Sex Marriage : Parallels In every country where same-sex marriage has been legalized, it was brought about by lawmakers or the courts. On Friday, Ireland could become the first country to make it legal by the ballot box.
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Conservative, Catholic Ireland Votes On Same-Sex Marriage

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Conservative, Catholic Ireland Votes On Same-Sex Marriage

Conservative, Catholic Ireland Votes On Same-Sex Marriage

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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We are also tracking a vote in Ireland over same-sex marriage, which could be a landmark. It is true that same-sex marriage is already fully legal in 17 countries, but those decisions were made by legislatures or courts. Ireland could become the first country to legalize same-sex marriage through a national popular vote. And in Ireland, NPR's Ari Shapiro found the vote was on almost everybody's mind.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: The minute you leave the Dublin Airport, the debate hits you over the head. Nearly every lamp post is crowded with wide plastic signs. Yes, equality for everybody. No, children deserve a mother and father.


SHAPIRO: First stop - Pantibar, a gay club where the only place you can hear people talk is on the smoking deck. Christine Dilworth is sucking down a cigarette.

CHRISTINE DILWORTH: It's all anyone's talking about, like, I have not had a conversation with a stranger over the last month that has not been about marriage equality.

SHAPIRO: Laura Sopfel is here with her girlfriend, Corinna Brown.

LAURA SOPFEL: Together long enough.

CORINNA BROWN: If it passes...

SOPFEL: Yeah, if it passes...

BROWN: ...We would absolutely get married.

SOPFEL: ...Yes, we will be getting married.

SHAPIRO: Voters are considering a change to the Constitution, it's 17 words in English, 12 in Gaelic. They actually had to change the Gaelic wording when they realized it could be interpreted to mean marriage would only be between members of the same sex, oops. Aodhan O Riordain is Ireland's minister of state for equality. He says the English wording here is especially significant. It uses the same phrase that extended voting rights to women in Ireland without distinction as to their sex.

AODHAN O RIORDAIN: That's the argument. We're not redefining marriage. Marriage isn't changing; we're just extending it. So just as expanding voting rights to women didn't change voting, extending marriage rights to same-sex couples is not going to change marriage.


SHAPIRO: Of course Dublin is a cosmopolitan, international city - people tend to be a little bit more liberal there. And that doesn't describe all of Ireland. We're now in Galway, on the west coast, where opinion is a bit more divided.

TOM LEONARD: I don't believe society is changing. I believe it's been hijacked.

SHAPIRO: Tom Leonard is sitting outside the pub on this sunny spring day.

LEONARD: If they want to live together or they want to have somewhat of a civil ceremony together, that's fine, but they have to come up with their own word for that. I object strongly to the term marriage. That is for men and for women.

SHAPIRO: Ireland is not an obvious place for same-sex marriage. For Europe, this country is pretty socially conservative. It has almost the highest rate of church attendance on the continent. Abortion is still illegal here. Divorce was forbidden until the mid-1990s. Still, every political party in Ireland supports a yes vote to allow same-sex marriage. Ronan Mullin is an independent senator, not affiliated with a party, which makes him one of the few willing to campaign against the referendum.

RONAN MULLIN: And I've had members of the lower house and of the Senate come to me and say, well, I'll be voting no anyway. You know, I can't come out about this, but I'll be voting no because I believe a child has a right to a father and a mother.

SHAPIRO: The Yes campaign is polling with a solid lead. Tiernan Brady believes that's because more people than ever know lesbians and gays personally. Before he became head of the Yes campaign, he was a mayor in rural county Donegal.

TIERNAN BRADY: My father found out I was gay because I ran for office because he was in the shop one day and a lovely little old lady, nice blue-haired lady arrived up to my shop and said, oh, I was canvassed last night by another candidate. I didn't realize your son was gay. The first my father had heard of it. So...

SHAPIRO: What did your father say?

BRADY: Oh, he just shrugged his shoulders and, you know, yeah, that's my son.

SHAPIRO: Brady doesn't know what'll happen in the vote, but running for office taught him that even in a conservative religious country like Ireland, people can sometimes a surprise you. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Dublin.

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