While many voters in Ireland’s referendum on introducing same-sex marriage were strolling around Dublin wearing “Yes” stickers Friday, many “No” voters were quietly keeping it to themselves.
The heated campaign has stirred emotions on both sides, with many voters in both camps wary of voicing their standpoint for fear of being dragged into an emotion-fuelled argument.
Final opinion polls suggested the “Yes” camp was heading for victory, but campaigners warned against complacency, wary of a large block of ‘shy’ “No” voters reluctant to disclose their opposition.
On the corner of Merrion Square, outside the childhood home of 19th-century writer Oscar Wilde, there were two placards on the nearest lamp-post, one reading “Vote Yes” and the other “Equality for everybody”.
The author, poet and playwright was publicly shamed in Britain and jailed for being gay.
Many people could be seen walking past wearing a white “Yes” sticker on their lapels, showing which way they voted.
“I’ve got a three-year-old son and if he ever came to me at a later stage and asked how I voted, the only way I could feel happy would be to say ‘Yes’,” said Rowland Crawte, 37, who works on the plush Georgian garden square close to Trinity College.
“There has been a general feeling that it’s kind of pushed under the carpet if you’re voting ‘No’,” he said.
Nearby on the square, “No” voters were reluctant to speak openly, even to the point of being unwilling to speak on condition of anonymity.
One spoke of how a friend who intends to vote “No” wore a “Yes” badge when walking about the city to avoid being asked questioned about how he is voting.
Another spoke of a gay friend who was openly voting “No” and has received death threats. They felt the rural and elderly turnout would be crucial.
– ‘I can’t get it in my head’ –
One voter who was also worried about abuse from opponents was a gay “Yes” voter who was about to go to the polling station, who gave his name as Nick.
“I’m 100 percent ‘Yes’,” said the man standing at the O’Connell Bridge, the main city centre crossing over the River Liffey.
“I want to adopt a child one day. Why not? I want a family like everyone else wants a family.
“My brother’s gay as well so it will be a historical thing in our family.”
“Why discriminate against other people? We’re all here in it together,” said his colleague Mark, but they did not want to say where they worked “in case the ‘No’ voters come and throw rocks at us”.
Turnout was brisk in Dublin 7, a recently gentrified part of the north city centre.
Voter John Nagle said he feared the implications of a “No” vote.
“If this fails, it means that a majority of Irish people have voted to keep prejudice against another part of society in the law,” he told AFP.
But Betty Young, a voter in her mid-60s, was forthright about her opposition.
“I don’t believe two men should get married. Or two women. I can’t get it in my head that there’s two men standing together — who’s the wife and the husband?
“When you hear people saying ‘my husband’ and it’s a bloke… I just can’t…”
– Artist duo vote for ‘equality’ –
Meanwhile in Drogheda, a port town 55 kilometres (34 miles) north of Dublin, two gay artists, known together as Adrian+Shane, went to cast their votes.
They work together to create pop art using paint, collage, stencils, photos and video.
“It’s about decency, it’s about morals, and it’s about doing the right thing,” said Shane.
Adrian added: “Really happy, really excited, delighted that this is happening and hopefully ‘Yes’ will win.”