Ireland is not a perfect land, as the Irish are generally quite willing to acknowledge.
But Ireland did a perfect thing on Friday.
Other countries have permitted lesbians and gays to marry—and subsections of countries have done so, as is the case in the Unites States. But this have tended to happen via legislative and judicial action. Ireland has done so by a vote of the people—an overwhelming vote—and it is the first country in the world to have made the choice by popular referendum.
Headlines in The Irish Times recognized more than an election result. It was, they suggested “a national boat-rocking” that might well have “changed the republic forever.”
Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country that is often portrayed as socially conservative (and that still wrestles with a host of issues, most notable reproductive rights), has done a very socially liberal, very progressive thing. And it has not done so in small measure. The turnout for Friday’s referendum was over 60 percent— a notably higher level of participation than the United States saw in the 2012 presidential election, and a dramatically higher level of participation than was seen in the 2014 elections that decided control of the US Congress. The desire to get this thing right was so strong that Irish men and women who are working around the world came #hometovote, creating magical scenes of young people arriving on ferries singing: “It will not be long, Love, ‘Till our wedding day.”