Originally published May 26, 2015
Ireland’s historic vote for LGBT equal marriage rights yesterday is a welcome achievement for freedom and equality in a world increasingly wracked by violence and economic austerity.
While no minority’s rights should be held hostage to a popularity contest, it is nonetheless gratifying that overwhelmingly Catholic Ireland rejected the church hierarchy’s bigotry and instead voted for equal rights.
In winning the world’s first-ever national referendum on LGBT rights, our community should remember that we would not have won this victory without the solidarity of non-LGBTs. This should not only inspire gratitude on our part, but dedication to actively campaigning for the social and legal equality of ALL other oppressed peoples. As economic malaise grips many countries, we know that scapegoating of immigrants, racial and religious minorities can rise quite rapidly, and so we as LGBTs must respond with solidarity whenever ANY group’s rights are threatened.
Also, while we rejoice in this huge victory, we would be foolish to think or act as though civil rights progress is inevitable. While today northwest Europe basks in the glow of yesterday’s vote, in southeast Europe, proto-fascist parties and organizations have grown at alarming rates in recent years, with LGBTs second only to immigrants as targets of their violence. In the U.S., our LGBT movement has grown alarmingly complacent after several years of back to back victories, and needs to be much more involved in the #blacklivesmatter protests against police violence, the campaigns for economic equality, immigrant rights, and other justice struggles.
While many well-meaning people have predicted an “inevitable” win for equal marriage rights in this spring’s Supreme Court decisions, a careful reading of the recent oral arguments before the Court shows the vote will likely be close, and could very well go against us.
So while we rejoice in yesterday’s victory in Ireland, we know that civil rights progress doesn’t magically fall from the sky, but requires activism. As the great anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass put it, “without struggle, there is no progress.”
Watch the joyful reaction from a huge crowd in Dublin as they hear news of the passage: