Last weekend, more than 1.2 million Irish voters took a courageous stand for love and family when they overwhelmingly chose marriage equality.
They recognized the fundamental truth that every person is entitled to dignity and respect, and that there can be no justification for the denigration or persecution of anyone because of who they love or who they are.
I want to thank my good friends Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Enda Kenny and Tanaiste [Deputy Prime Minister] Joan Burton for their forceful leadership and eloquent advocacy on this critical issue.
I cannot improve upon the perfectly Irish statements they made following this historic vote, but I can echo the taoiseach’s words when he described the Irish as “a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people,” and that their choice will be “heard loudly across the living world as a sound of pioneering leadership.”
In 22 years, Ireland has gone from a nation where simply being LGBT was against the law to a nation where the people resoundingly stand for equal rights.
And here in the United States, in just the past three years we’ve gone from six states recognizing marriage equality to 37 states, comprising 224 million Americans. It’s about love. It’s about equality. It’s about dignity. It’s about our most cherished values. That’s what this is about — it’s all it’s ever been about.
There is still work to be done. There are still too many nations that deny people even the right to be safe from violence and severe discrimination, and too many states here in America that allow a person to be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual.
But the progress is undeniable. As advocates in Ireland, in the United States, and around the world have proven time and again, where there’s passion and commitment, there is opportunity.
I continue to believe that in every corner of the world, people want to do the right thing. You should never underestimate the epiphanies that follow when a culture makes a breakthrough of conscience.
But it takes leadership. It takes courageous individuals who are willing to step forward, to turn adversity into positive change, and to truly live the words of the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats: “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking.”
JOSEPH BIDEN is the vice president of the United States and the former senior senator from Delaware.