Last night, my Irish father-in-law shared how proud he was of his homeland over the weekend.
The Irish public had claimed a win over the powerful Roman Catholic Church. And it was a resounding victory, with 62% voting to support same-sex marriage.
Many of those who said ‘yes’ travelled from abroad to vote, with a massive 3.2 million votes cast and all but one of Ireland’s 43 districts voting in favour.
Ireland, Ireland, has pipped Australia to the post on marriage equality. Ireland, where the Church still dominates on so many aspects of life, where abortion is illegal and homosexuality was only decriminalized in 1993.
Australia already lags behind the UK, most of Europe and the United States, New Zealand, Canada and Brazil on the issue of same-sex marriage. The Australian government bans same-sex marriages, and does not recognize such marriages entered into overseas, despite the good majority of the population supporting marriage equality.
Sadly, we couldn’t feel pride in our Parliament moving forward on the matter in 2012, when same-sex marriage bills were rejected by the Senate and the House of Reps.
But Ireland’s big shift could just be the catalyst Australia needs to try again.
And Australia wouldn’t even require a referendum on the matter. Marriage equality can be legislated by the federal government.
No longer fearing the wrath of their electorates, a number of politicians have changed their tune on same-sex marriage in recent years. This means that should a free vote on the issue be allowed by the Liberal Party, the measure may actually have a shot at getting up.
From now until the next election, marriage equality is going to be a difficult topic for politicians to walk-around, or give vague responses to. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made his stance on marriage equality clear but others, including Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop, have a real opportunity to show some leadership on the matter.
Meanwhile, The Greens are already leveraging the momentum sparked by the Irish vote, having brought forward to next month a Senate debate on its marriage equality bill, and set a Senate vote for November 12.
Marriage equality in Australia is inevitable. Society will collectively reflect back on our current stance in 100 years, astonished that in 2015, we still allowed institutionalized traditions and religion to determine who we could marry.
Even Abbott noted as such, declaring that inside the Abbott family he’s “probably the last hold-out for the traditional position [on marriage]”.
A ‘hold-out’, that is, clinging on to something from the distant pass.
It’s time to let go.