Given its conservative Catholic reputation, Ireland seems an unlikely focus for the marriage equality debate. But as the nation moves towards its May 22 referendum on the issue--the first country in the world to put same-sex marriage up to a popular vote--the Irish people have been grabbing international attention, and for positive reasons to boot! In addition to active campaigning from the Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, and backing from every major political party, polls indicate that support for marriage equality is as high as 80%, a figure which rises to 90% among students.
According to leading LGBT activist Rory O'Neill (a.k.a. Panti), the liberalization of society, the weakening of the church, and the freedom of movement afforded by being members of European Union are all important factors that have contributed to the open-mindedness of Ireland's youth. The greatest challenge to the motion passing will be the country's aging population, those living outside Dublin who may have little or no experience with gay people. Recognizing this, Trinity College Dublin's Students' Union has launched a campaign to broaden support.
#RingYourGranny for Marriage Equality encourages students who support same-sex marriage to call their family and talk about the upcoming vote. From O'Neill to Dustin Lance Black, activists have stressed the power of the personal touch, of Irish youth speaking openly with their friends and family, explainging why the issue is important, and how it will affect them. "The best way to change someone's mind about how they're voting," Student Union president Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne told The Journal, "is to sit down and have a chat, and that's what we want to do."
Some of the answers recorded were surprising, some discouraging, but all were honest.