Unless you’ve been holidaying on the far side of the moon for the past few months, it would be safe to presume that you are well aware that citizens of the 26-county state will be going to the polls on May 22nd to vote in the Marriage Referendum (and the less controversial Age of Presidential Candidates Referendum) to decide whether LGBT people should be afforded the same marriage rights as their hethro counterparts. In fact many of you, like myself, that have your mind made up long ago are probably somewhat sick of hearing about it by now and are looking forward to the 23rd of May and a Yes vote secured when all normality will be restored to the world. Well, unless the D-Day prophecies of some of the No side are correct and the entire fabric of society breaks down with brothers and sisters eloping, men marrying dogs, and an inevitable boom in the woom-to-let market. T’will be Sodom and Gomorrah 2.0 I tell ya! Or, perhaps, life for most people will go on as normal, with the exception of those that will now be allowed to marry the people they love, and those that find that scenario uncomfortable and/or offensive. Dicks! However, that’s not to say that I am 100% confident that the Yes vote will win at ease, as most of the polls would suggest. I do believe that the Yes side will carry, but not without a fight from the remaining defenders of conservative Catholic Ireland. So as a straight and married male with an understanding of the privileges society grants me as such, in this piece I will attempt to cut through some of the bullshit the No side purport in defence of A yes vote. And just to state, I am consciously avoiding the issues of polygamous relationships and what some would say is the patriarchal nature of marriage, as both are distractions from the key issues and not directly related to this referendum.
Despite how the No side attempt to portray this referendum as anything but, it is wholly about equality. Ultimately a Yes vote will allow a certain minority of human beings in our society the same rights as the majority of human beings in our society. It’s as simple as that. Of course, let’s not pretend for a second that this referendum is the last frontier in the fight for equality as some of the more economically conservative Yes campaigners would have you believe. Wealth inequality (which is not generally dictated by sexual orientation) and it’s resulting disparities in health, education and quality of life etc have a much more damning effect on society. But that’s an argument for another day, and one which by no means undermines the importance and significance of marriage equality. Because marriage IS a very important thing for most people. In most cases, marriage in Ireland is simply a formal expression of two people’s love for and commitment to one another. It is generally viewed by society as the ultimate stage of two people’s relationship. So why prevent two people who love each other from participating in an ancient custom, one which the No side claim to hold so dearly, if they truly are not opposed to equality? No doubt the No side will throw out the ould “civil partnership” card to counter this argument, but as the Radical YES Campaign point out;
There are 160 differences [between civil partnerships and] marriage. Most of these arise because civil partnership does not recognise same-sex relationships, with or without children, as a ‘family’, and are therefore excluded from family law. This can mean, for example, that same-sex couples cannot jointly adopt; that the non-biological parent does not have automatic parenting rights; that the family home is designated as a ‘shared home’ which can cause problems with housing grants and disposal of the home in cases of separation. The Children and Family Relationships Bill currently under discussion in the Dáil goes some way to resolving parenting rights, but still falls short of the full parenting rights bestowed by marriage.
That is not equality. If the constitution, which is heavily influenced by the conservative Catholic Ireland of it’s day, dictated that myself and my wife were not allowed to be married because our children were born out of “wedlock” and that we had to settle for some form of civil partnership we would not accept this oppression of our love. So why should anyone else? A No vote will uphold the dogmatic notion that LGBT people are unequal and entitled to lesser rights than the rest of society, therefore a Yes vote is most certainly a vote for equality.
While on the issue of equality I got a leaflet in my door this morning entitled “Good Reasons for a No Vote – A Cross-Denominational Response to Same-Sex Marriage Referendum” which comically attempts to claim that “a yes vote will undermine the principle of equality”. The paragraph read as follows;
We believe a ‘Yes’ vote will undermine the principle of equality by applying it inappropriately to two fundamentally different types of relationship. We respect the right of same sex couples to have their relationships protected by law, but we reject the idea that this union shall be regarded as the same as marriage”
That’s like saying “I respect the right of black people to have their lives and safety protected by law, but should they be killed, it shouldn’t be regarded as the same as murder”. Perhaps a bit more extreme, but if you want to deny someone the same rights that you avail of then that is actively promoting discrimination and fostering inequality.
Christians are a funny bunch all the same though. For a belief system based entirely around what must be one of the most dysfunctional family units ever thought up, they’ve some mad notions and high opinions on what constitutes a “family” and what is the best environment for a kid to grow up in. Let’s break it down a bit; kid is product of an unplanned pregnancy to a father who pretty much stays out of the picture his entire life (even up to the point where his son is literally dying on a cross and begging him for mercy), a mother who only had to be “visited by an angel” to get preggars (gullible bunch all the same them Nazaretheans), and of course the fall-guy Joe, the handy-man carpenter who pretty much plays a thankless role in the kid’s life, teaching him his trade and guaranteeing a steady income for the family knowing all along the kid ain’t his. But hey, JC didn’t do too bad for himself despite this unorthodox household and upbringing, did he? According to the story he formed himself a tight-knit group of radical revolutionaries determined to bringing about a truly equal society free of persecution and poverty (God-damned commies) and got martyred by a bunch of conservatives that didn’t like how his ideas were different to their’s. Irony much?
Despite all this, these thinly-veiled hate mongers on the No campaign think they have some righteous duty to dictate to society what a family should consist of and who can or can’t love each other. Fuck this bullshit “they have civil partnership, they don’t need marriage” line. If you don’t like same-sex marriage don’t have a same-sex marriage. Simples. But don’t tell two people who love each other that they can’t have the same rights as you just cos it makes you uncomfortable. Or that their love is any less worthy than yours or mine. If I was to die, or run off, in the morning and my two sons were left to grow up in the care of my wife and sister (as the two remaining adults in the house) I know for a fact they would do an excellent job and provide the kids with their emotional and physical needs despite lacking a traditional gender role in their life. Love is all you need to build a family, love is all you need to raise a kid and love is all you need to make a marriage work. Love is all you need! If you are genuinely concerned about the children then surely the character of the parent/parents/guardians is more important than their sexual orientation!
There is no non-homophobic or non-discriminatory reason for opposing marriage equality, it’s as simple as that. You may try to hide it with claims of concern for the children and the need for a mother and father figure but that completely disregards the many children being raised by single-parents, some of whom have the help of their mothers/fathers in raising the child. In fact, in many communities, there are single mothers living with their mothers and both play an active role in the rearing of the child. Two women raising a child, will the No camp be calling for such children to be brought into State care next? It’s funny how the right-wing conservatives show so much concern for children when it suits their agenda, yet historically it is that very same section of society that has stood in the way of many attempts at social progress that would allow children a better chance at life and a better quality of life. The failure of Dr. Noel Browne’s Mother and Child Scheme is one such example.
To conclude, I find it imperative to appeal to those that claim to be for equality yet are thinking of voting No to consider this. If you are afraid that it is going against your religion, I must stress that this has absolutely nothing to do with religion. Marriage existed long before Christianity, and even if a Yes vote passes your religion will still be free to discriminate against same-sex couples. Nobody will be forcing your church to officiate over same-sex weddings. Nobody will be forcing you to attend one. If you are just uncomfortable with the idea of two men or two women being in love, well, get over it. That is happening anyway and you can’t stop it, so why stop them from expressing their love through marriage? And if it is children you are worried about, please consider this; if there is a young person in your life that you love and/or care very much for, just imagine that in ten to fifteen years time they fall in love with someone of the same sex as them and they want to marry this person. Now imagine how they would feel, and how you would feel, if they knew that you voted against their right to marry that person they love. I bet they’d feel pretty hurt, and you’d feel pretty shitty. So don’t be a dick, vote Yes!
Lar Ó Tuama