Rónán Burtenshaw

I was sitting in with a group of my friends a while ago, all of them are in their early twenties and all of them are straight men. None of them have any great interest in politics, in fact many of them are decidedly uninterested in any political discussions I might start.

Sitting at the table, one of my friends noticed a Marriage Equality badge from the Marriage Equality 2nd birthday party I went to on Valentine's Day. These are some of my more laddish mates, so I was expecting questions about my sexuality, a few jokes about me having a boyfriend or maybe a couple of homophobic slurs. That would have been the norm, not for them per se, but for young lads when the subject of homosexuality comes up.

However, on seeing this badge, one of my friends produced his wallet. To my amazement, he produced a Marriage Equality badge himself, which he had got during Dublin Pride. He'd read about the subject, thought the idea was very good and was talking to someone from the organisation about it for ages.

Then, another one of my friends said that he too had run into a Marriage Equality person in town recently and had signed a petition for them. He thought it was something that he would support too. A discussion followed in which all but one of my young, male, fairly macho and conservative mates talked at length about gay rights and how marriage equality would be a good thing.

Ten years ago, in schoolyards where everything un-cool was 'gay', I would never have thought that equal marriage rights for same-sex couples was possible. Having listened to lads slag each other about being gay almost daily as a kid, I never would have imagined that it could happen in Ireland. Just living here day-to-day, when so few people are motivated to think of anyone's rights but their own, I didn't think it was possible. This discussion between a group of straight mates is a sign of just how far the issues has come. And maybe how far it could come if kids picked up messages about equality from a young age.

It reminded me about something great that I was once told about public opinion. Forty percent support is just four out of ten people. If you change one mind, that's fifty percent and a tie. If you change three minds, that's seventy percent and a landslide. Public opinion is a fickle thing, easily manipulated, but even the most oppressed or stigmatised minorities can find themselves a majority if they have sound and strong arguments that are heard.

So, this is what I was thinking. Sitting there with my mates. On a Friday evening. Talking about the pluses of Marriage Equality over cans of beer in-between discussing cars and Ireland's team selection for the next weekend's game at Twickenham. On the 19th of February 2010. Mark the date, it's a sign of how far we have come as a society, and it's a sign of how much LGBT rights work in Ireland has paid off.