The citizens of Ireland, considered one of the most conservative and most religious countries in Europe, voted overwhelmingly on Friday to legalize same-sex marriages. Thus Ireland joins at least 16 countries including Spain, France, and Denmark and 36 U.S. states where gay and lesbian couples can marry.
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The result of the Irish referendum is the best illustration of the change in popular attitudes toward the LGBT community. Ireland has always been considered a conservative country, and until 1993 homosexuality was a crime. The lack of substantial resistance to the idea of same-sex marriage demonstrates the readiness of the society and its institutions — even the most conservative of them, like the Catholic Church — to accept homosexuality without seeing it as something that to change or to deny.
Israel is part of this global trend. Israelis, like the Irish, are increasingly open to and welcoming of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. This can be seen not only in the growing number of celebrities and public figures who are open about their sexual orientation and no longer suffer the stress of concealing who they are, but also and above all in the many Israeli households that are headed by LGBT parents; by the pride parades that have nearly become national holidays in which everyone participates and by the many draft laws that have been submitted with the aim of securing equal civil and economic rights for LGBT Israelis. While many of them have yet to become law, they are nonetheless paving the LGBT community’s way into the heart of the national consensus.
It would not be going too far to say that in 2015 Israel, the recognition of LGBT rights is the political norm, shared by all the parties except the religious ones — and even in these parties there are individuals who are open and sympathetic to the issue. The latest election season proved this, when antiquated anti-gay marriage remarks by figures in Habayit Hayehudi chased away potential voters, especially young ones. Likud, in contrast, took care to present a pro-LGBT agenda, and senior party figures such as Benjamin Netanyahu, Moshe Ya’alon and Miri Regev repeatedly spoke out against homophobia and for equal rights.
The Israeli public is largely ready to move forward on pro-LGBT legislation and equal rights for the community, chief among them the right to marry. In Israel, marriage is a religious institution, and as same-sex marriage is prohibited, as is heterosexual marriage in a wide variety of circumstances. The LGBT breakthrough is another reason to introduce civil marriage in Israel, as in the rest of the West, in order to free groups and individuals from the tyranny of laws that are irrelevant to them and to offer them genuine justice and equality instead.