Irish film actor Colin Farrell wrote an op-ed this week in support of same-sex marriage in his native country, a decision he said is "about the heart, not the gender."
In the article he submitted to Irish newspaper Sunday World, Farrell explained that he was 12 years old when he discovered that his brother, Eamon, was gay.
"I was curious because it was different from anything I'd known or heard of and yet it didn't seem unnatural to me," Farrell wrote. He described the situations his brother encountered and added that other people cast Eamon out using fists and ridicule.
Photo essay: Faces of Russia’s LGBT community
Farrell mentioned that his brother now lives in Dublin with his husband, Steven. But the couple was forced to celebrate their vows in Canada because gay couples in Ireland aren't permitted legally to marry. Farrell expresses frustration with his ability to drive to Las Vegas, "get drunk and meet a woman and have Elvis marry us for $200," while some states and countries continue to follow decades-old bans that prohibit gay marriage.
"Speaking out in support of equality in all its forms is a moral necessity if we're to have a society where peace, compassion, and kindness become the ruling classes," the actor wrote. He noted that residents now have a chance to make history by changing their views on gay marriage.
Seventeen countries have legalized marriage equality, but Ireland has not followed suit. Voters could change the law next year when they consider a referendum expanding civil marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. Sixty-seven percent of residents said they would vote in favor of the measure, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.
Ireland made headlines about gay marriage earlier this month when the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland decided to take a dessert shop to court. Ashers Baking Company, located in Northern Ireland, is facing legal action for refusing to bake a cake featuring "Sesame Street" icons Bert and Ernie underneath the words, "Support Gay Marriage." Earlier this year, a gay rights activist placed the order to the bakery for an event marking International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. But the shop declined, saying the message was "at odds" with its owners' Christian beliefs.
RELATED: Bert and Ernie at the center of another gay marriage controversy
In the United States, support for marriage equality has grown steadily since 2000, when Americans opposed gay marriage by a 57% to 35% margin. A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that now a majority — 54% — said they favored marriage equality.
Prominent U.S. lawmakers and public officials from both sides of the aisle have reversed their stances on gay marriage in recent years, including President Barack Obama, former president Bill Clinton, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. Last week, Kansas became the 33rd state to legalize marriage equality.