A couple of young men hold hands near St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photo by Callen Harty.
“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”–Oscar Wilde
Today the island nation of my ancestors made history by becoming the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by a popular vote of the people. Few would have thought that the typically Catholic and conservative country of Ireland would become the first country to do this. Not only did the “yes” vote win, but it was overwhelming–62% to 38%–and it was nationwide. While the largest margins of victory were in the larger metropolitan areas the “yes” votes finished on top in all areas of the country, large cities to small towns, coastal to inland. There were only a few places where the “no” votes finished ahead, and even in those places it finished barely ahead.
I have always had that pride that those in America with Irish ancestry tend to have. We feel a connection to the ancestral homeland and proclaim ourselves as Irishmen even though we are generations removed. My great-great grandfather and great-great grandmother came here during the potato famine years in the 1840s. Still, we feel a connection to the land and a yearning for it as if it were the home where we grew up. Many of us feel called to visit the old sod. I did so and celebrated my 50th birthday there. We wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, sing Irish songs, and boast with pride that we are Irish. Today, maybe more than ever, I am incredibly proud to have that Irish blood coursing through my veins.
Here in the United States the polls show more and more people believing that lesbian and gay Americans should be allowed to marry. We can do so now in a large majority of the states in this country, but it has been through judicial decisions and legislative action, not by votes of the entire population. Despite the polls showing approval of same-sex marriage at all-time highs I am not sure that I would trust my fellow Americans to vote on the issue.
From all accounts the debate in Ireland was much more civil than we might expect here. There were a few nasty signs and billboards and in the waning weeks the opponents tried to steer the discussion to a plebiscite on the safety of children, as if allowing a loving couple to marry would somehow be dangerous to Ireland’s children. But the people of the Emerald Isle were not fooled by the rhetoric of the right. They were not coerced by their Catholic bishops as they have been in the past. Instead they heard the words of their lesbian and gay compatriots and decided that their fellow citizens should be treated as equals under the eyes of the law. They decided that love is greater than hate and they voted to enshrine that in the country’s Constitution.
Gra anois agus go deo. Erin go bragh.
About Callen Harty
Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores,
He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History.
He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive.
Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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, Emerald Isle
, Erin go bragh
, Gra anois agus go deo
, Irish ancestry
, old sod
, Oscar Wilde
, potato famine
, same-se marriage
, St. Patrick's Day
, Stephen's Green
, United States
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