Ireland and I Shout 'Yes'


As Shakespeare might have said regarding Ireland's resounding YES vote on Gay Marriage, "This is a tale told by the populous full of sound and fury, signifying everything." And it is. Ireland hit her mark on the planet and she gleams!

But in true Shakespearian fashion, not before some tragedy.

Geoffrey Knox, my husband, an Irish citizen as well as myself, wasn't allowed to vote.

To set the scene: We live in a tiny village in Co. Cork with one grocery store, five pubs, two churches, with voting taking place in a small, bleak community center called The Old Piggery.

Irish passports in hand we joyfully arrived to cast our YES. Yet upon consulting the register, a middle-aged gent, the "Presiding Officer", declared, without looking up from the roster, that Geoffrey had an 'L' by his name meaning he could not vote, while I had a "P " by mine, meaning I could.

"But we both hold Irish passports," I said, brandishing my small purple covered book. "The Irish Times said this was all we needed to vote."

"It says right here..." the Presiding Officer went on, flipping through the voting brochure trying to find the right page to back up his claim, "that any person with an "L" by his name may not vote in a national referendum."

Geoffrey counter balanced with his always calm voice-of-reason. "Sir, I called the Voting Registrar in Cork City, and they confirmed that I was registered. What does the 'L' mean?"

"It says in the book..." And so it went with icy geezer trying to find the right page - an Irish Catch 22 if ever there was one.

Voters came and went. Old folk, not the young that made the YES happen. The door banging loudly whenever someone entered or left the room. Another registrar, clearly a young gay man, seeming somewhat embarrassed trying to avoid looking at us. Geoffrey on his cell calling the Voting Registrar to see if anything could be done. Me saying how we lived through the AIDS crisis and had worked for decades for Gay Rights.

Icy geezer flipping through the voting rulebook repeating, "It says in the book." And me saying, "I don't care what's in the book. I'm speaking what's in my heart."

The woman on the phone tells Geoffrey it's up to the Presiding Officer to allow him to vote or not. Geoffrey hands icy geezer his cell so she can tell him directly that the decision is his to make. And his answer is still no. "It says in the book..."

Geoffrey hangs up in defeat. "Go vote, Alice," he says. I grab my paper ballot and mark my YES in pencil with an X.

Behind me Geoffrey's calm breaks. His voice rises up to the rafters of the Old Piggery. Anger and tears mix in a tirade at the Presiding Officer.

"Hundreds of our friends died because of government discrimination. The U.S. stood by and did nothing. That should never happen again anywhere... how can you know what this vote means to me? Do you know?" I doubt icy geezer did.

My feet were pinioned to the floor. Never in his life had icy geezer witnessed such a spectacle from a man such as Geoffrey with such sound and fury.

And it wasn't that Geoffrey was acting out of character. Haven't I seen him fly off the handle many's the time at home? It's that he bared his soul with such rawness in pubic to the man at the desk, who I'm sure has never acted that way himself.

And so we left. Walked out into a lyrically blue and white spring morning.

We had been planning a festive lunch. But we had no appetite. We drove to the nearest big town, Bantry, in the midst of Friday Market Day. This is rural Ireland. Scores of people are buying hens and geese, even a small goat, fresh fish, eggs, cakes and spuds. We sat on the Square drinking an Americano, looking at everyone. Ireland's future is in their hands. How will rural Ireland vote?

The joy had gone out of the day. But as it wore on, and New York called or emailed or posted on Facebook, we were heartened that Ireland might be moving into the 21st Century and voting YES.

Afternoon folded into evening. Home, surrounded by farmland, trees, sky, clouds and sheep grazing in distant fields is a peaceable kingdom. Yet our hearts were heavy.

I "came home", as the Irish like to say, to vote YES in memory of Dan that gay child my Grandmother took into her home in Kerry long ago. I don't know the full story. My Mother never told me.

Dan (I can see him, ever in a black suit and tie) would be pleased at Geoffrey's outburst. But he'd be horrified at the blind bureaucracy that prevented him from casting his vote.

"Alice Marie," he'd say. "I'd have told that bollix of a simpleton to go feck himself."

Then something wonderful happens. Geoffrey and I are cooking dinner. RTE radio reports the people of Ireland have come out to vote in unprecedented numbers. s I pass by a window I see it. There in the evening sky due west, is a thin strong streak of pink cloud hovering over the hills. Pink -- the same pink used in the SILENCE = DEATH slogan.

The cloud disappeared as fast as it came and I knew all would be right. I told Geoffrey and we poured glasses of wine. YES beamed all over Ireland.