By Thom Senzee
Originally published on Advocate.com August 24 2014 2:37 PM ET
Ireland is overwhelmingly supportive of same-sex couples, according to a recent poll that found 86 percent of residents approve of gay and lesbian couples, reports Pink News.
Despite the fact that nearly 85 percent of Irish people identify as Roman Catholic, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's World Fact Book's July estimate, the nation has evolved toward greater acceptance of LGBT people.
The recent poll, which PinkNews reports came from the Sunday Times surveying 954 respondents, bodes well for an expected 2015 referendum in which Irish voters will decide whether or not to allow same-sex marriage in the country. This year's poll numbers indicate a seven percent increase over stated support last year.
“This is another welcome demonstration of the transformation in attitudes to lesbian and gay people and of the generosity of Irish voters in their willingness to extend equal status and dignity to lesbian and gay people and lesbian- and gay-headed families," Kirean Rose, chair of the Dublin-based Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, told U.K. LGBT outlet PinkNews.
GLEN has been involved in promoting LGBT equality on the island nation for more than a decade. According to a timeline on the group's website, the long trek toward changing Irish minds about the need for marriage equality began in 2002.
That was when a four-member group from GLEN's ranks collaborated with government officials to compile a first-of-its-kind report about how to implement a path toward equality for LGBT people. By 2006, several legislative developments provided some domestic partnership options for same-sex couples in Ireland.
Since then, Ireland's LGBT community has experienced triumphs and stumbles along the way to the current moment, when Ireland seems to be on the precipice of embracing marriage equality. GLEN lamented the "lost opportunity" in 2006 when the high court rejected a Canadian lesbian couple's application to have their marriage recognized in Ireland.
But in 2011, Ireland enacted legally recognized civil unions for same-sex couples. By July of 2013, more than 1,000 same-sex couples had registered in civil partnerships, which grant many of the legal benefits afforded by marriage, according to GLEN.
While Ireland's LGBT community has been growing in support and visibility, the country's best-known out person might be independent senator David Norris, who is often credited with almost singlehandedly abolishing Ireland's law banning same-sex sexual contact. In 2011, Norris was a top contender for the country's presidency, though he ultimately finished fourth in the election. Earlier this year, Norris delivered a stirring speech about homophobia in the Irish senate and the European Parliament. Watch a video of that speech here.