Irish voters' approval of same-sex marriage via ballot referendum on Friday proved the perfect excuse for Hardball host Chris Matthews to bash Republican presidential contenders for their steadfast support for traditional marriage and criticism of judicial activism in redefining the institution.
For what it's worth, Irish-Catholic Chris Matthews and his panelists essentially trashed the Emerald Isle as, well, backwards for having held on to socially conservative policy positions while much of the rest of Europe was far more socially liberal.
The message was clear: if even perpetually "backwards" Ireland can see the light, why can't Republicans here in the United States?
"With support for same-sex marriage gaining momentum in this country and around the world at a high rate of speed, can the GOP still get away with saying no to marriage equality?" Matthews asked before introducing his panel guests USA Today's Susan Page, Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart, and MSNBC contributor Michelle Bernard.
"Susan, I want to start with you.... This country has been warp speed. Ireland! What are the Republicans to do now that they're behind Ireland?!" Matthews quipped, to laughter from all three panelists.
"In a generation, I mean, it was 1993 that Ireland repealed the anti-homosexual laws there," Page noted, adding that it's a marked change "in less than a generation" to now see the country approving same-sex marriage.
"When's the GOP going to make this leap?" Matthews wondered again, to which Page answered that she saw a "warning sign for Republicans," especially given that "a majority of Republicans under 30 support same-sex marriage."
Moments later, Matthews bellowed that although "[t]here's like 3,000 people running for the Republican nomination, and not one of them has broken the seals on this thing" by breaking out of the pack and endorsing same-sex marriage.
"Ireland is just the second European example" of the way forward for Republicans on same-sex marriage, the Post's Capehart insisted, noting that British Prime Minister David Cameron pushed through same-sex marriage legalization and "he just won reelection outright."
"I think what's happened in Ireland is fantastic," Bernard chimed in. "I'm so glad that they did it. I'm so glad they are sort of catching up with the times," she added, seeing in effect that a socially-liberal "cultural Catholicism" marked the electorate of the Emerald Isle and that something like that is possible with American voters, including Catholic Republicans.
"Ireland was behind in 1971, it was still illegal, contraception was illegal. They've caught up with the times on that. They've caught up with the times on gay marriage, and hopefully today's Republican Party will do the same," Bernard offered.
Of course, at issue for most Republicans is not same-sex marriage per se but the route by which it's being placed into the law books of the various states: judicial activism. A handful of states have approved of same-sex marriage either by an act of the state legislature or by, in the case of both Washington State and Maryland, a voter referenda ratified the respective states' laws to approve same-sex marriage. Maine approved of same-sex marriage directly by voter ballot initiative without prior legislative action.