Ireland's same-sex marriage referendum: If it doesn’t pass, then it’ll hurt a lot. But we’ll be a stronger community for it

This can only pass if people make the effort to vote for people like me, who want to marry the person they love

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The Independent Online

It’s 6.30am on Friday the 22nd of May and I sit bleary eyed at my parents kitchen table nursing a coffee from my favourite mug. My entire family are up and waiting to make the ten minute drive to the polling station. We’re usually not early risers, but my family are awake to support me and others in enshrining marriage equality into Ireland’s constitution. Their support will make all the difference.

Truthfully I have been a nervous wreck for the past few weeks. Recently I have thought of barely anything else apart from this day. I’ve been canvassing, I talked with strangers, I did what I could, but it’s up to others now, people like my family who chose to get wake with me in solidarity at 6am to make their way to the polling station. My Dad was going to be late for work, not that he cared, ‘this was more important,’ he said.

Despite the support that many of us have received in the past few weeks, the negative effect that this referendum has had on the LGBT community in Ireland has been profound. There has been a tenfold increase of young LGBT people contacting BelongTo, an LGBT support group, in the past few weeks. But we carried on, in the face of blatant homophobia, less than tasteful comments, and hurtful words about our ability to parent, to raise children, debates on whether to extend rights to to LGBT citizens.

I take solace, and you should too, in the idea that we, as a generation of LGBT have made a sacrifice for future generation. We put up a good fight, and took the punches so that (hopefully) another generation wont have to. If this referendum gets over the line, then we reap that rewards of further dismantling the architecture of homophobia in Irish society. If it doesn’t pass, then it’ll hurt, it’ll hurt a lot. But we’ll be a stronger community for it. As I write this, it’s not even half way through Friday the 22nd of May and I’ve already experienced a range of emotions. From almost crying over my breakfast, to exhilaration at hundreds of people returning home to vote from far and wide. But most of all anxiety, because this can only pass if people make the effort to vote. To vote for people like me who may want to marry the person I love someday.

Polls earlier this week indicate that Ireland is set to make history by being the first country in the world to enshrine same sex marriage into its constitution by popular vote. But a Yes vote will depend on turnout. Those who have pledged to vote Yes, those who I met on doorsteps and had that conversation with, now hold the baton to take marriage equality over the line. A Yes vote will send a message to the young LGBT people of Ireland - a message of acceptance, of love, and equality.

This has felt like a long journey, and I can’t help but absorb the nerves and anxieties felt by the Irish LGBT community as Twitter and Facebook ignite with positivity, excitement, but a steadfast sense of realism - we all know a Yes vote relies on the turnout.

This morning I joked with my boyfriend that if this passes he’ll have to marry me on Monday morning. I hope that tomorrow that joke can become a reality - though if it passes I may hold off on a proposal for a few years after all, every joke must be taken with a pinch of salt.

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