Opinion: Homosexuality Will Never Be Eliminated. How About Eliminating Homophobia?

by Neela Ghoshal

A report published in June by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in collaboration with the Uganda National Academy of Sciences, could help reshape understandings of human sexuality – if African policymakers take the time to consider the report’s findings.

A Ugandan transgender woman in a town near Kampala, shortly before she fled the country. She left to escape the police harassment and violence she experienced after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.


Contrary to widespread belief amongst African lawmakers and ordinary citizens, homosexuality is neither a Western import nor a matter of choice. These are some of the findings the panel of African scientists revealed after reviewing hundreds of studies on same-sex attraction.3

But some African politicians seem too busy fomenting panic around homosexuality to pay attention to the facts, by, for example, spreading false claims that U.S. President Barack Obama is pushing same-sex marriage on Kenya and Nigeria.

Desperate to distract voters from real, unresolved problems, such as poverty, insecurity and corruption, many African politicians like to raise the specter of homosexuality as a mortal danger. In the name of protecting society, “traditional values,” or children, they pass deeply discriminatory laws.

Nigeria, under former president Goodluck Jonathan, slapped 10-year prison sentences on anyone who even “indirectly” demonstrates a “same sex amorous relationship.” In Uganda, before its Anti-Homosexuality Act was struck down on procedural grounds last year, a landlord who didn’t evict a gay or lesbian tenant could have been convicted for maintaining a “brothel.”

For the proponents of these laws, Obama is the latest bogeyman, with one Kenyan politician suggesting that if Obama so much as mentions the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people during his upcoming visit to Kenya, this might tear Kenya’s “social fabric.”

But the panel of well-respected African scientists roundly dismissed claims that homosexuality is imported, finding the prevalence of homosexuality in African countries “no different from other countries in the rest of the world”.

The panel concurred with a previous a finding by Ugandan scientists that “homosexuality existed in Africa way before the coming of the white man.” When these Ugandan scientists presented their report to President Yoweri Museveni in early 2014, he shamelessly ignored their conclusions, claiming their report justified the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The recent report notes that same-sex relationships and diverse gender identities exist even where laws are most repressive, and levels of stigma are highest. Criminalising LGBT identities or same-sex conduct simply won’t make LGBT people disappear.

Likewise, an approach to sexuality and gender that is in line with international human rights law will not open the floodgates to waves of Africans “converting” to homosexuality. Indeed, countries like the Netherlands and Sweden, known to be particularly open to sexual diversity, have no higher rates of homosexuality than any other countries in the world.

The scientists find that “… studies such as this show that young people can be friends with LBGTI youngsters without fearing (or their parents fearing) that they will ‘catch’ same-sex attraction from their friends. Such ‘transmission’ of sexual orientation simply does not happen.”

Nor should policymakers worry that LGBT people are a threat to children. The fear that gays are recruiting and abusing children is often offered to justify cracking down on homosexuality. However, the panel found “no scientific evidence to support the view” that LGBT people are more likely to abuse children than anyone else.

Instead, the panel, having examined studies of child sexual abuse, concluded that “most of the perpetrators are heterosexual men.” Rather than scapegoating homosexuals, the report suggests, governments should identify and hold accountable the real child abusers.

When given an opportunity to speak for themselves, LGBT people often emphasise that they were aware of their sexual or gender identity from an early age. Similarly, heterosexual people often develop romantic feelings toward the opposite sex from early childhood—they don’t “choose” those feelings, nor can they change them.

In examining the scientific literature, the panel says that, “Overall, the surge in recent confirmatory studies,” including those of twins and of similarities in chromosomes across a population group with a particular trait, “have reached the stage where there is no longer any doubt about the existence of a substantial biological basis to sexual orientation.”

If sexuality has a biological basis, the scientists ask – and if there is no evidence that LGBT people “recruit” or otherwise harm children – what could possibly be the justification for punishing people for their sexual orientation or gender identity?

African policymakers should ask themselves the same. And rather than wringing their hands about a US court decision on marriage equality, or tearing their hair out over purely hypothetical comments that Obama may or may not make, they should look at the very real social harms caused by homophobia and transphobia.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights – which, like the South African and Ugandan scientists who produced the report, can hardly be dismissed as Western – passed a resolution in 2014 condemning widespread violence on the grounds of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The commissioners expressed “alarm” that “acts of violence, discrimination and other human rights violations continue to be committed on individuals in many parts of Africa because of their actual or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity.” They cited “‘corrective’ rape, physical assaults, torture, murder, arbitrary arrests, detentions, extra-judicial killings and executions, forced disappearances, extortion and blackmail.”

The commission calls on African countries to end all violence and abuse on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The ASSAf report goes a step further in concluding that “As variation in sexual identities and orientations has always been part of a normal society, there can be no justification for attempts to ‘eliminate’ LGBTI from society.”

As the study shows, same sex attraction and gender variance have always existed and nothing will change that, no matter how many repressive laws are passed, how many LGBT people are raped, murdered, imprisoned, expelled from schools or evicted from their homes.

Instead of trying to “eliminate” LGBT people, why not begin taking steps to eliminate violence and discrimination against them?

Complete Article HERE!

A Catholic University Wishes Professor “Many Blessings” After He Marries His Same-Sex Partner

“Same-sex unions are now the law of the land, and Professor Hornbeck has the same constitutional right to marriage as all Americans,” said a statement from New York’s Fordham University after the marriage of its theology department chairman.


J. Patrick Hornbeck

A Catholic university in New York City has said it will take no action against the chair of its theology department after he married his same-sex partner on June 27, in contrast to the several parochial K-12 schools that have fired gay and lesbian employees who marry.

The marriage of Fordham University Theology Professor J. Patrick Hornbeck and Patrick Bergquist — who directs the family ministry of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan — was announced in the “Weddings” section of the New York Times the day after their ceremony.

In response to an inquiry from BuzzFeed News, Fordham University provided a statement from Senior Director of Communications Bob Howe saying that university wished the best for Hornbeck and his husband.

“While Catholic teachings do not support same-sex marriage, we wish Professor Hornbeck and his spouse a rich life filled with many blessings on the occasion of their wedding in the Episcopal Church. Professor Hornbeck is a member of the Fordham community, and like all University employees, students and alumni, is entitled to human dignity without regard to race, creed, gender, and sexual orientation,” Howe said in a statement that had been released previously. “Finally, same-sex unions are now the law of the land, and Professor Hornbeck has the same constitutional right to marriage as all Americans.”

Fordham’s response to Hornbeck’s marriage has been attacked in a number of conservative Catholic websites over the past two weeks, apparently beginning with Patheos.

Fordham University describes itself as “both Catholic and Jesuit” in identity, and invokes Catholic doctrine in other areas, including prohibiting the distribution of birth control.

“As an institution in the Catholic, Jesuit tradition, Fordham University follows Church teachings on reproductive issues,” states the university’s student handbook. “Distribution of contraceptives, contraceptive devices and/or birth control, in any form, is prohibited on Fordham University property and at University-sponsored events.”

The New York Archdiocese did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Fordham’s response to Hornbeck’s marriage. Neither Hornbeck nor his husband could be reached for comment.

Hornbeck’s marriage follows controversies in several archdiocese around the country where gay and lesbian teachers at Catholic K-12 schools have been fired after marrying their same-sex partners. The most recent firing to make national news was at the Waldron Mercy Academy just outside Philadelphia, where the archdiocese will host a large family summit in September that is schedule to include a visit by Pope Francis.

The Academy notified parents at the end of the school year that it was not renewing the contract of its longtime director of religious education, Margie Winters, because of her marriage to Andrea Vettori. Vettori appealed directly to the pope to intercede in a letter made public on July 1.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput praised Winters’s firing as showing “character and common sense at a moment when both seem to be uncommon.”
Complete Article HERE!

A Point of View: Why are opponents of gay marriage so sure they’re right?

By Adam Gopnik


Protester in front of US Supreme Court with placard reading: "God said: One Man + One Woman"

Critics of gay marriage often base their arguments on the certainty of their religious convictions. But societies without doubt are dangerous places, argues Adam Gopnik.

One of the strangest consequences of the recent Supreme Court decision here in the US – the one that made marriage between people of the same sex legal in all 50 states – is the amazing persecution mania it has engendered among religious people who don’t agree with it. They don’t just disagree with the decision, as of course they would. They feel threatened by it. They feel that the reality that men in San Francisco are now fighting over who should be first in line to rent formalwear has thrown them, the faithful, back into the catacombs, where they tremble at the tread of the legions and hear the distant roar of lions. They feel victims of a form of secular martyrdom that could easily bleed over into the real thing.

It’s hard to know why. No church has been closed, no temple shuttered, no sermon suspended. No-one who thinks that gay marriage is an abomination has been kidnapped and thrust, chained and dressed in leather, into the depths of a bar on Christopher Street. If you run a business that is open to the public, like a wedding caterer, then it does seem that you may have to cater for gay marriages along with straight, but that was a civil rights battle fought and won at the lunch counters of the American South 50 years ago. If you are open to the public, then you are open to the public, and have to take the public as it is, multi-coloured and many-sided and oddly angled.

Now, it has always been my view that gay marriage is the religious conservative’s best friend. If it is your aim to remove potentially subversive sex from the American scene, then marriage is always the answer. Indeed, if your goal was to stop gays from ever having sex again, then you ought to want to make gay marriage compulsory. But this essentially conservative decision creates an odd panic. What will come next, they cry? Polygamy, or legalised bestiality?


Well, all such “slippery slope” arguments are silly, because all social life takes place on a slippery slope. Once we have banned walking across the street when the red light is on, what is there to prevent us from imprisoning all pedestrians? When once we have a speed limit for cars, what is to prevent us from enforcing a rule of absolute stasis on every Volvo? Nothing, except all that protects us in any case, which is common sense and the experience of mankind. A law lowering the drinking age does not mean that some day soon all babies will have bourbon in their bottles, and gay marriage no more implies polygamy and bestiality and incest than a law against breaking and entering implies the abolition of windows and doors. The courts bless gay marriage now, in any case, because it was already blessed by our entertainments and its own peaceful existence. Manners make laws, and manners alone can repeal them.

No, what the opponents of gay marriage really cannot stand, I realise as I read them, is being criticised in the same spirit as they choose to criticise their opponents – not as holding a morality that might be too stringent to be obeyed, but holding a morality that was never really moral at all. Their complaint is, in its way, one that seems fixed in the political choices of the late Roman Empire. The only alternatives they can recognise as real are either power or persecution. Either you are the magistrate making rules, or else you are the martyr being sacrificed to them. This love of authority, and panic at its absence, is perhaps their central shaping conviction. This is why fundamentalist theologians tend not to mind hysterical atheists, who run around miserable at the loss of a super-deity, but do mind complacent atheists, who cannot see what the fuss was ever all about.

I have, I will confess, a certain intellectual sympathy with the believer’s position. There is a built-in contradiction between the claims of religion properly so-called, and those of a tolerant society. A religion in its nature, if it isn’t an ethic or worldview or philosophy (notice I didn’t say “merely” an ethic, since there’s nothing mere about those), makes astonishing cosmic claims about the nature and destiny of life itself, and usually about some supernatural incident in history. If you truly believe these claims with any degree of seriousness, then you are bound to believe that everything else retreats into insignificance before them. If I truly believed, say, as countless better writers than I once did, that the rulers of the world lived on a mountain in Greece and divided the realms and oceans among them and could be pleased and placated only by sacrificing heifers and rams and pigeons – well, I would be racing to Whole Foods to find a heifer to take out. No pigeon on the Manhattan street would be safe.

We’ve learned, though, by painful experience over the millennia, that ceding control of human life to those beliefs is catastrophic – as we see every day in the Middle East, where the “true believers” of IS give us a indelible picture of what rule by pure unrestrained, urgent belief actually looks like. Those who slaughter heifers to the benefit of their gods are soon slaughtering people to the same good cause. So, as much by clandestine co-operation as by any declaration, we have learned how to remove absolute belief from the seat of secular power.


But it has been done, and must be done, gently – the dispossession of faith from power is a long and slow one. The best books on how religious toleration came to the Western world rightly emphasise that they did not come in the spirit of religious conversions, in wild waves of enthusiasm and ideological conviction. Tolerance came slowly, and more often in the form of uneasy working truces than open sieges and surrenders. A painful practice of grudging co-existence created time for reflection – and the peace provoked the possibility that maybe the cosmic truths were neither quite so cosmic nor quite so true as they might have seemed.

What people forget now, I think, is that in the middle of the terrible 20th Century there was a kind of religious revival among the most humane poets and philosophers – I think of WH Auden, of TS Eliot, of Simone Weil and Dietrich Bonheoffer. The reason was simple. They wanted to reaffirm the sanctity of individual conscience in a time of genuine totalitarian coercion – the real thing, with camps and gulags, not a fantasy of it consisting of mean things being said about you on Twitter. Some of them longed for authority to be re-established, and pined for old popes and Byzantine emperors. But the best – I think particularly of Auden, a gay man after whom I named my own son – turned to an idea of divinity because they thought it the best way of doubting the dictators. To keep a conscience, Auden thought, one must at least imagine a soul. Auden turned to faith because, by making the individual’s inner life paramount, it seemed a form of dissent from a mass society devoted to warping all those outer selves. Mass society wanted to take the soul out of the self, and faith could pop it back in.


WH Auden

  • Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973) born in York and educated at Oxford University. Published his first volume of poems in 1930
  • His left-wing political sympathies inspired him to go to Spain in 1937 to observe the Spanish Civil War. In 1939 he was accused of fleeing danger when he emigrated to the US on the verge of World War Two
  • In New York, Auden met the poet Chester Kallman who would be his companion for the rest of his life. He taught at a number of US universities and took citizenship in 1946
  • Auden’s most famous poems include In Memory of WB Yeats, The Unknown Citizen and “Stop All The Clocks…” which was quoted at length in the 1994 film Four Weddings And A Funeral

But these people of faith were too busy doubting themselves to be furious at those who doubted them. Auden knew how little we know by observing the consequences of people in power who thought they knew it all: “There can be no ‘We’ which is not the result of the voluntary union of separate ‘I’s’,” he wrote.

A crucial third term intervenes between power and persecution – and that is, simply, pluralism. Pluralism is a not a weak doctrine, but a radical one. It accepts the truth of all those “I’s. Though science has given us genuine certainty about a great deal of celestial and human conduct – we know that men and women sprang from apes, as we know that gun laws limit gun violence – science cannot give us any certainty at all about ends, about what we ought to feel and how we ought to live. We know for certain that men and women sprang from apes but each of us must choose how to land that leap. At least pluralistic societies that accept many ways of seeing the world have tended to let us see inside our plural selves. Cults of certainty can only persecute or be persecuted. Communities of common doubt can always co-exist.
Complete Article HERE!

Glad to Be Gay: The Long Lost, Pro-LGBT Film From 1961

Glad to Be Gay—in 1961


The Rejected, a 1961 documentary, is an unexpectedly positive curio: a TV program that set out to understand homosexuality, rather than condemn it.

Margaret Mead looks deadpan into the camera.The renowned sociologist is describing a world full of homosexuals—tribes in Siberia, isolated cultures in the South Seas, and even American Indian populations stateside.Her point: homosexuality “is found in people at every level of culture” and “it’s society that says that this is either good or bad behavior.”

While this may be common knowledge today, it was a bold statement to announce to a nationwide audience in 1961 when Mead filmed the segment for The Rejected, the first gay-themed documentary to reach the masses.

The Rejected aired on San Francisco’s KQED network on September 11, 1961, revealing an intriguing support of the LGBT community. But the footage had never been found—until now.

Archivists Alex Cherian and Robert Chehoski, who spent some six years researching and tracking down the 60-minute footage, finally found this illuminating needle in a haystack and made it available to the public.

“After searching with nothing to show but second hand reports about the film, I was ready to give up,” Cherian, an archivist for the J. Paul Leonard Library at San Francisco State University, told The Daily Beast. “When we finally managed to release The Rejected online in 2015, it made all the frustration worthwhile.”

“It was very exciting,” Chehoski, an archivist for KQED, told The Daily Beast. “I kind of couldn’t believe it. It’s a huge part of our history and just shows what kind of incredible work KQED was doing back then.”

“Being able to view this film really humanized homosexuals to a mass audience, most of whom probably felt they had never met a gay person in their life.”

The Rejected portrays gays as being just like everyone else, an ideal that would be a no-brainer today but was far from the norm in 1961.

Today, support for the LGBT community is at an all-time high. After decades of fighting for equal rights, the U.S. Government may finally make same-sex marriage a constitutional right.

These accomplishments were all but unfathomable when The Rejected was made in 1961.

“The main take-away is that society needs to change rather than the homosexual, which I think was a very bold message for that period—and a very accurate one,” Bob Connelly, a professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at American University in Washington D.C., told The Daily Beast. That attitude makes the film “incredibly progressive for its time.”

The Rejected relies on psychiatrists, lawyers, religious officials, and advocates to dispel the shame surrounding homosexuality.

The documentary features psychiatrist Karl Bowman, who discusses the Kinsey scale of human sexuality to educate Americans about the pervasiveness of homosexuality.

The scale ranges from zero to six: zero being exclusively heterosexual and six being exclusively homosexual, with the general population falling somewhere in between.

Bowman cites Kinsey’s research that one in six males are more homosexual than heterosexual along with other figures from the era. “Four percent of all adult males being completely homosexual and having only homosexual activity,” Bowman says in The Rejected.

For what it’s worth, a recent study from Gallup also indicates four percent of Americans identify as LGBT.

Bowman further expounds on the nuances of homosexuality. “Eighteen percent are more homosexual than heterosexual in their experiences after adolescence, and 37 percent have had at least one homosexual leading to orgasm after adolescence,” he says.

Even more shocking for its time was Bowman’s assessment that anyone trying to spot a homosexual based on appearance alone would fail greatly. And they’re not always “treatable,” he says in The Rejected.

Bowman is not the only voice of psychiatry in the film.

A letter written by famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud to a mother seeking treatment for her gay son is read in The Rejected. In it, Freud debunks the stigma surrounding being gay: “Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. No vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexual.”

Legal issues associated with homosexuality were also discussed in The Rejected by San Francisco’s district attorney. Religious leaders, such as the Episcopal Bishop of San Francisco and a local rabbi, addressed homosexuality—both stating that sodomy laws should be repealed and that homosexuals should be treated with love, not hate.

Most importantly, the film included the voices of openly gay men: Hal Call, Donald Lucas, and Les Fisher, three officials from the Mattachine Society, one of the earliest gay rights organizations.

“There isn’t a lot of visual footage of homosexuals from the early 1960s and earlier, especially footage that is as positive as this is,” said Connelly, who used the transcript of the film for his gay and lesbian documentary course since 2001. “Being able to view this film really humanized homosexuals to a mass audience, most of whom probably felt they had never met a gay person in their life.”

Instead of being a sensationalized, salacious depiction of gay-lifestyles, like many discussions during this time, The Rejected takes a “very measured, candid, scientific, and unemotional” approach, according to Connelly.

Surprisingly enough, the public’s reaction was mostly positive.

“The widespread reaction was that it was so significant in discussing this topic openly and candidly to a wide audience for the first time,” Connelly said. “I’m sure there was some negative reaction, but what I came across was a lot of positive responses.”

According to The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV, Variety praised the film for its “matter-of-fact down-the-middle manner, covering it quite thoroughly and, for the most part, interestingly. The San Francisco Chronicle also applauded the television station for taking on “the most taboo of all subjects—homosexuality, the permanent underground.”

Most notably, 97 percent of letters received to the station were in favor of The Rejected, according to The Prime Time Closet.

“It’s not just the script or direction that opens our eyes to a bygone era, [but] the implicit cultural assumptions on-screen make us realize that times have changed dramatically and we have cause to expect a better tomorrow,” said Cherian.

The Rejected can be viewed in its entirety on the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive
Complete Article HERE!

Church in Ireland needs ‘reality check’ after gay marriage vote

One of Ireland’s most senior Catholic clerics has called for the Church to take a “reality check” following the country’s overwhelming vote in favour of same-sex marriage.

Linda Cullen (R) proposes to her partner Feargha Ni Bhroin

The first gay marriages are now likely to take place in the early autumn.

Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, said the Church in Ireland needed to reconnect with young people.

The referendum found 62% were in favour of changing the constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

The archbishop told the broadcaster RTE: “We [the Church] have to stop and have a reality check, not move into denial of the realities.

“We won’t begin again with a sense of renewal, with a sense of denial.


“I appreciate how gay and lesbian men and women feel on this day. That they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live. I think it is a social revolution.”

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin says there has been a social revolution and the church has a “huge task in front of it”

The archbishop personally voted “No” arguing that gay rights should be respected “without changing the definition of marriage”.

“I ask myself, most of these young people who voted yes are products of our Catholic school system for 12 years. I’m saying there’s a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the Church,” he added.

Ireland is the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage through a popular vote, and its referendum was held 22 years after homosexual acts were decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland.

Among those voicing their approval of the outcome was UK Prime Minister David Cameron who tweeted: “Congratulations to the people of Ireland, after voting for same-sex marriage, making clear you are equal if you are straight or gay.”



By BBC’s Ireland correspondent Chris Buckler

In Ireland debates about morality tend to be rooted in religion. The discussion about same sex marriage was no exception.

The Catholic Church after all still has much influence in Ireland and the no vote was strongest in rural areas where church attendance figures tend to be higher. That sharply compared to the cities where the yes campaign never doubted their support.

There was also a generational divide – with the yes campaign capturing the interest and enthusiasm of young people in a way that few elections do. Some living abroad even returned home to Ireland simply to visit the ballot box.

The Catholic Church is not immune from the influence of an increasingly liberal Ireland.

In his appeal for a no vote the church’s most senior figure In Ireland specifically recognised the love shared between same sex couples.

That is a softening of language and in its own way a sign of wider change.

In total, 1,201,607 people voted in favour of same-sex marriage, while 734,300 voted against.

Out of 43 constituencies, only the largely rural Roscommon-South Leitrim had a majority of “no” votes.

The yes vote means an amendment will be made to Article 41 of the constitution, stating that being of the same sex is no longer an impediment to marriage.

The government must bring in a new law, the Marriage Bill 2015, to give effect to the amendment and it says it hopes to do that by the time the Irish parliament breaks up in the summer.

This means the first actual marriages are unlikely to take place until September.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 20 countries worldwide.

What the ‘yes’ vote means

The Republic of Ireland has a written constitution which can only be changed by referendum.

Now that the proposal has been passed, a marriage between two people of the same sex will have the same status under the Irish constitution as a marriage between a man and a woman.

They will be recognised as a family and be entitled to the constitutional protection for families.

Civil partnerships for same-sex couples have been legal in Ireland since 2010, giving couples legal protection which could be changed by the government.

However, married gay people will now have a constitutional standing that can only be removed by another popular vote.

According to the Irish Times, there will be no new civil partnerships from the day the law comes into effect, and although civil partners will retain their existing rights, there will be no automatic upgrade from partnership to marriage.

Reaction to ‘yes’ vote

Celebrations started at Dublin Castle
Celebrations started at Dublin Castle when the results were announced

Complete Article HERE!

Tears and celebrations likely to follow as Ireland says Yes

Young were given something they could believe in – campaign for and vote for

Belle Horgan
Belle Horgan (7 months) from Dublin at the RDS.

By Fiach Kelly

The counting is continuing, but the smiles of all those who voted Yes are widening.

The chests of Yes campaigners are being pushed out; the tears and celebrations are likely to follow when confirmation of the results are announced in Dublin Castle.

Not only has Ireland has agreed to same-sex marriage, it has done so in a louder voice than many could have imagined, carried on the back of a remarkable turnout and an engagement by younger people not seen in years.

Following years of the politics of recession and bailout, the young were given something they could believe in, campaign for and vote for. And they did.

For campaigners, the main task was to tap into this latent goodwill and desire to make a societal change a generation could claim as its own.

The campaign became about more than just same-sex marriage. It became a debate about the place of the gay community in Irish society and the country’s acceptance of it.

Yes Equality, the umbrella organisation comprised of a number of groups, deserves enormous credit for the drive and organisational skill it has shown in recent weeks.

That’s not to say it was all plain sailing. There were wobbles. One came around the Easter period when many in politics felt the Yes campaign was talking to itself, although this was swiftly rectified with a focus on personal stories and the experiences of gay people and their families.

The term “national conversation” is one of the most horrible phrases to enter public debate in recent years, but the campaign offered something along those lines. Many gay people felt comfortable to speak about themselves and who they are, winning the arguments in their families and communities.

A second wobble came two weeks ago as the No side gained traction with issues such as surrogacy and adoption, and the absence of opinion polls, coupled with fears of a shy No vote, increased nerves.

Again this was rectified by personal stories, the most powerful of which was from journalist Ursula Halligan, and interventions by people such as Daniel O’Donnell.

Yes campaigners took heart and many in the political and media bubble predicting doom were out of step with the country. Canvass returns from the last month told the Yes side they would win, and win well.

The campaign was not party political, but the parties can take credit today. Labour championed same-sex marriage from the outset of the Government’s term, and before. Eamon Gilmore’s role in pushing it on to the agenda must be also be acknowledged.

After initial reticence, the Taoiseach took on a leading role in the campaign and Fine Gael pushed as if the issue were its own. Maybe it sensed an avenue to broaden the party’s appeal to different sections of the electorate but many in the party believed deeply in it, even if the enthusiasm wasn’t shared by some of its conservative members.

Credit too must go to Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin and Sinn Féin, both of whom could have opposed the referendum for narrow political gain but chose not to. Mr Martin in particular had to deal with the fact that not only were many of his rank and file members against the proposal, some of his TDs opposed it too.

Yet, this one was largely for the younger generation, which turned out in its droves. Stories of emigrants returning home to vote and huge increases in voter registration offered indications of what was to come but the final results were astonishing.

Campaigners said those on the supplementary register were overwhelmingly young, and the turnout showed they proved the old adage that they don’t vote wrong.

All across the country, the turnout on the supplementary register hovered around 90 per cent, even reaching 99 per cent in Huntstown, west Dublin, by close of polls.

Such enthusiasm can be infectious and perhaps convinced older, sceptical voters not to stand in the way of something younger generations believed in.

Complete Article HERE!

Priests Defy Bishops To Support Marriage Equality In Ireland

There is a battle going on within the Irish Catholic Church at the moment.


Father Martin Dolan faced a difficult decision. With Ireland’s referendum on marriage equality looming, he could either go along with his bishops’ official opposition to it, or he could be honest with his Dublin congregation.

He made his choice during a Saturday evening mass in January. Not only did he urge his congregation to vote Yes on May 22, he also took the opportunity to come out as gay.

The worshipers greeted the revelation with a standing ovation.

Dolan is one of at least 10 members of Catholic orders who have publicly endorsed marriage equality. They have been willing to defy their bishops, suggest progressive priests, because they see the referendum as just the latest skirmish in a long-running war. As church attendance has plummeted, progressives argue they are trying to save the church from the wounds inflicted by a moribund and authoritarian leadership.

“There is a battle going on within the Irish Catholic Church at the moment,” said Father Iggy O’Donovan, a priest from Limerick who called for a Yes vote in a letter to the Irish Times in March. “There’s a group of us, we try to still hold on to the belief that Catholicism is compatible with modernity … [while] the church is dying at [the bishops’] feet,” he said in an interview with BuzzFeed News.

Progressive factions across the Catholic world have been emboldened by Pope Francis to confront the conservatives who dominated under Popes Benedict and John Paul II. The church has a particular interest in overhauling itself in countries like Ireland, where weekly attendance fell from around 86% in 1990 to less than 40% in 2012. That decline was largely due to revelations of widespread child sexual abuse, which coincided with economic changes that took more and more Irish people to more secular European countries for work.

With popular support for the referendum consistently showing overwhelming support in opinion polls, many Irish bishops appear worried that a misstep on the referendum could further marginalize the church. Indeed, their initial public statements were so muted it seemed they simply wanted to get through the campaign unscathed.

But the bishops have never wavered in their opposition to same-sex marriage, making it hard to maintain a conciliatory tone in an environment where LGBT rights supporters have successfully framed the referendum as the ultimate test of equality. And Pope Francis hasn’t provided a clear answer to this conundrum; while he has tried to moderate the church’s language on homosexuality and even raised the possibility that civil unions could be acceptable to the church, he has always firmly opposed full marriage rights for same-sex couples as well.

And so, for the global church, there is more at stake than the outcome of the vote itself — Ireland is the clearest test case yet of the strength of the progressive movement under Francis.

In a sign of how deep this disagreement may run within the Irish church, it is possible that hundreds of Irish priests could vote Yes on Friday, based on the internal discussion of the left-leaning Association of Catholic Priests. The group was formed in 2010 out of frustration with the bishops’ handling of child sex abuse allegations, and now has 1,070 members — around one-third of the country’s priests, according to one of its organizers, Father Brendan Hoban.

When the Association asked its members what position to take on the referendum, Hoban told BuzzFeed News, the group “split down the middle,” so it decided to take no public stand. The group’s founder, Tony Flannery — a priest who was suspended by the Vatican in 2012 for challenging the church’s historical legitimacy and advocating positions like the ordination of women — told BuzzFeed News he thought around 25% of the country’s clergy might yet cast a Yes vote.

Opponents of the marriage equality referendum disagree with the way some of its advocates have framed the debate as a question of whether Ireland is a modern secular country or still beholden to a backward-looking church. Opponents — even the bishops — maintain that their arguments against the referendum aren’t based in religion at all but rather they are making a secular case warning that marriage equality will cause harm to society. Their primary case against it is that treating heterosexual and homosexual couples the same would harm children, who, they claim, would no longer be legally entitled to grow up with both a mother and a father.

“If this is framed as Catholic Ireland versus modern Ireland, it’s the wrong way to frame it,” said David Quinn, head of the Iona Institute, a conservative Catholic think tank in Dublin and a driving force behind the No campaign. “The arguments for and against are ultimately secular, not religious.”

But, Quinn told BuzzFeed News, there was “no question” that the push for same-sex marriage rights was part of a “secular reaction against the years of Catholic dominance in Ireland.”

In this environment, Ireland’s bishops have been so cautious in their opposition that their major statement against the referendum at the start of the campaign didn’t even call for voters to cast No ballots. The closest thing to a battle cry offered by a resolution released in March was this: “We say to all voters: Marriage is important — reflect before you change it.”

A March speech by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin showed how some of the bishops are looking to apply the model offered by Pope Francis.

“There is a radical difference between marriage between a man and a woman and the union of two people of the same sex. But we must also welcome people as they are,” he said at a talk hosted by the Iona Institute. He also chastised those who have spoken against the referendum in language that is “not just intemperate but obnoxious, insulting, and unchristian in regard to gay and lesbian people.”

But this tone has won the bishops a different kind of backlash — the editor of a Catholic newspaper later suggested Martin would “have to accept some responsibility” if the referendum passes because there hasn’t been “a clear campaign by the hierarchy” against it. And Martin even faced hecklers during his speech who questioned whether he actually opposed the referendum at all.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

The bishops now seem to have grown concerned about such criticism from the right — or, with opinion polls still showing a firm lead for Yes despite a tightening race in the campaign’s final week, their caution has been overtaken by a concern the referendum will pass.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin began a speech on May 6 saying, “I think I should begin by saying that I intend to vote No in the upcoming referendum on marriage,” a disclosure he said was a response to the suggestion that he had “given constant solace to the Yes campaign.”

That was part of a broader shift to more active opposition from the bishops. On May 1, archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin issued a statement urging people to “speak up courageously for the union of a man and a woman in marriage.” Over the following weekends, bishops circulated further statements opposing the referendum throughout Ireland, though many hewed closely to the argument that urged people to “think before you change” marriage.

“In a sense, the church has placed itself in a no-win situation,” said Father Brendan Hoban of the Association of Catholic Priests. “If the Yes vote wins it’ll be seen as a defeat for the church; if the ‘no’ vote wins there will be more anger heaped on the church as being responsible for its defeat.”

The clergy publicly supporting the Yes side have given a range of reasons for their vote. In his March letter to the Irish Times, Father Iggy O’Donovan argued that the church members should vote Yes in the name of pluralism in a secular state. Some, like the well-known activist nun Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, seem ready to question church teaching on homosexuality more fundamentally.

“I am going to vote Yes in recognition of the gay community as full members of society,” she told the Irish Times last week. “They should have an entitlement to marry. It is a civil right and a human right.”

Perhaps as extraordinary as these statements from members of Catholic orders is the fact that the bishops don’t appear to be disciplining them — or at least not yet.

The hierarchy has in the past taken steps to silence internal critics; Father O’Donovan, for example, was sent to Limerick after being removed from the congregation he had long led in the town of Drogheda in 2013. But he said he had “heard nothing from the hierarchy” about his letter, and Father Martin Dolan told BuzzFeed News that “no one has told me I cannot speak” about the referendum after he came out in January, though he said he was “not giving interviews at this time.”

This is the most hopeful sign that the Irish church is growing under Francis, suggested Association of Catholic Priests’ Father Tony Flannery.

“The fact that these people nowadays feel they can oppose the official church in public … that in itself is a real indication of the Francis effect in the Irish church,” he said.

But it’s not clear how Francis’ desire to extract the church from culture wars can be applied when the church is directly confronted with a marriage equality movement. Francis’ gentler tone as pope followed his own experience unsuccessfully combating a 2010 marriage equality bill in Argentina when he was the country’s top bishop, deploying rhetoric that even church conservatives concede embarrassed the church. And he has appeared to wade into marriage fights even as pope when conservatives were favored to win.

If the amendment passes, Ireland will be the first country in the world to establish marriage equality by a popular vote. This historic vote comes just five months before bishops from around the world are due to come to Rome for what is known as a synod, which follows a three-year process launched by Pope Francis to review church teaching on the family. The process has largely been viewed as a litmus test of how much the church can moderate its condemnation of homosexuality — a draft discussed in a meeting last October included language that spoke of “welcoming homosexual persons,” but it was rejected by the bishops and no language on same-sex couples got enough votes to be adopted in that meeting.

The Irish campaign is unlikely to make reaching an accord any easier in this year’s synod. But it’s a stark reminder as to why it’s so important that the church continues to work toward a third way in marriage fights, which are spreading faster and faster in many countries where the church has only just begun to slip from the center of power.

And the stakes are high in Ireland, said Father O’Donovan.

“There’s an angry sea, and the hierarchy are the first rocks on the shore who will have to face it,” he said. “If [the referendum] fails … it will be a pyrrhic victory” that will damage the church in the long run.

And if it passes, he said, the vote will be “the latest nail in the coffin of old Catholic Ireland.”
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