Tomorrow, Ireland may become the world's first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote (all the other countries have done it through legislatures or courts). It would be a thrilling and groundbreaking move for any country, but particularly for Ireland, which has long been criticized for maintaining archaic laws and attitudes, particularly when it comes to the rights of women and the LGBTQ community. The debate leading up to the vote has brought out a lot of strong feelings — on both sides.
Polls in recent months reveal that Irish citizens are increasingly supportive of marriage equality. An estimated 69% of voters will vote "yes" to the marriage equality referendum, though some worry that there are many "silent no" voters in Ireland — a faction potentially large enough to shut down the referendum. Indeed, the "yes" voters are the more vocal and visible group, but the "no" voters are still out there. And, some of them aren't so silent.
On Tuesday, Irish Times journalist Una Mullally tweeted a photo of a letter she'd received from a "no" voter. Last month, Mullally had written an op-ed revealing that she'd been diagnosed with stage-three stomach cancer just days after her 32nd birthday. It was a raw and powerful piece, not only about the experience of dealing with an out-of-the-blue health crisis, but about dealing with it as a gay woman in a country where the value of her life and her rights are currently on the line. "In the last month, I’ve learned very quickly what perspective means. It’s not a slogan or a soundbite," Mullally wrote. "Like most people, I just want to get on with my life. But how can that life be a full one when I’m not equal, and when my relationship with my partner, as strong and loving and committed as it is, is not equal?"
In response Mullally received a flood of support, both from readers and the Irish press. But, one "no" voter reached out to her with a different message, suggesting that perhaps this diagnosis was divine punishment — both for being gay and for supporting the marriage equality referendum.
If there's a bright side to maniacal vitriol like this, it's that hopefully the "yes" voters will remember to show up in droves tomorrow. If bigots like this still feel free to speak their minds so freely, that just means the other side needs to speak even louder.