referendum

Ireland Gay Marriage Vote a ‘Reality Check’ for Church

Photo via REUTERS / Cathal McNaughton / RNS

A couple walks in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on gay marriage May 23, 2015.Photo via REUTERS / Cathal McNaughton / RNS

In many ways, Ireland remains a heavily Catholic country.

Yet the emphatic “Yes” vote to same-sex marriage rights on May 22 represents a seismic shift in the nation’s social liberalization and challenges the Roman Catholic Church to rethink its role in Irish society.

Ireland’s Gay Marriage Referendum a Sign of Roman Catholic Decline

Photo via REUTERS / Cathal McNaughton / RNS

A poster supporting the Yes vote is displayed in Dublin on May 19, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Cathal McNaughton / RNS

“In Ireland,” says a character in a 1904 George Bernard Shaw play, “the people is the Church, and the Church is the people.”

But not so much anymore.

On May 22, voters in this once deeply Roman Catholic country will decide whether the country’s constitution should be amended to allow for gay marriage. If the amendment passes, Ireland will become the first country to legalize same-sex civil marriage by popular vote.

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