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Ireland’s big gay turnaround

Ireland is often perceived abroad to be grossly homophobic. While there are senior bishops who continue to equate homosexuality to “Down syndrome or spina bifida,” the truth is that Ireland, especially if one is talking about the big cities of Dublin, Cork and Galway, is largely a tolerant, progressive, and inclusive place these days.

Civil partnerships, for example, were introduced in Ireland in 2010 and have swiftly become an uncontroversial part of everyday life, a remarkable turnaround given that it is only 22 years since homosexuality itself was decriminalized, in 1993.

The latest polls show a resounding 71% in favor of changing the law. If the support holds steady as the Yes campaign hopes, it will mark the first time worldwide that gay marriage has been introduced by popular vote, as opposed to an act of the legislature (a referendum is required in Ireland because the change in the law requires a change to its constitution).

It is unimaginable that the Irish public might ever have even considered voting in favor of same-sex marriage in such large numbers had the Catholic Church — which strenuously opposes the move — not been so utterly disgraced by the sex-abuse scandals that have been exposed by a welter of inquiries over the last decade.

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