Sunday, 26 April 2015

Marriage Referendum, 22nd of May, 2015

Marriage Equality Referendum Ireland Gay
Photo: Remy Connolly


Info: First off, I have to say that I have had some form of what is to follow thrashing around in my head almost endlessly for well over a year, almost daily. I don't know why marriage equality, which has zero affect on me one way or the other, exercises my emotions so much, on a high level, I suppose I dislike seeing people being treated differently for reasons beyond their control, i.e. how they are born, appear etc. It's as farcical as someone discriminating against me because my eyes are blue instead of brown (I have nothing against brown-eyed people by the way, I know some very nice brown-eyed people and they're sound). I had no say in the colour of my eyes and they are the colour they are through a complex (to the simple human mind) sequence, yet straight-forward biological process. In hindsight, if I was given a choice as to my eye colour I would definitely stick with the ones I was given, sadly for some of my fellow citizens, the natural traits they were born with are used by some to box them off into a separate category of person, and it's not a very nice one to say the least.

With regard to the upcoming Marriage Referendum, it feels strange that I'm going to be casting a vote to decide if a minority in our Republic can have the same privileges as I enjoy. To put it another way, how would straight people feel if gay people had the deciding vote on whether they could marry each other or not? To my mind people I work with, friends, someone in the queue in the supermarket, at my bus-stop not being able to get married undermines my own straight, heterosexual marriage. Funnily the opposite is argued by opponents of Same-sex marriage, but we'll get to that later. I currently enjoy a 'privilege' that some of my fellow citizens are denied, so how can I be 100% happy knowing that others, through no 'fault', cannot enjoy something I can (depends on the pew) because of a simple, natural, biological state of being. 


Photo: Remy Connolly


Like any stance I take on anything, I think it's important to be self-correcting, it's a fundamental part of becoming a better person to acknowledge that a previously (or current) held view that you hold might be wrong. No matter how strong you feel about something, you have to be ready to admit that you may be wrong. Bearing that in mind you have to be receptive to opposing views and the arguments made against your stance, and to consider them, something I've been weak at in the past but would like to think I've improved upon, circular arguments melt my brain, and I'm sure those of others! So I come to the top cited reasons which are put forth by opponents of marriage by two people of the same sex (or people as I like to call them), and I tread cautiously here, while at the same time concluding I've never come away and thought 'You know what, that's a convincing argument.' 

Before I do though, I'd like to point something out, I don't think all people who are not in favour of the Marriage Referendum, or No voters, are bigots or homophobes, that's too sweeping a statement. Some people, particularly the older generation, have had long held views stretching back decades and I don't expect them to suddenly switch off those views, it's a big cognitive leap to make in the space of 2 years. I do however, and I have no problem admitting it, hold special ire for those who actively disseminate lies, make this vote about something it is not and unashamedly use the age-old tactic of scaremongering, I will provide examples of their hypocrisy below. It's a debate I've been following closely for the last couple of years and I've read a lot on it, so I'm going to try my best to give a concise breakdown of the key points, bear in mind I'm in slightly unfamiliar territory writing about topics that are not music related!


Here's the list of reasons why some of your fellow Irishwomen and Irishmen should NOT be allowed to marry (in the eyes of the State).

1) 'Marriage has always been between a Man and a Woman for thousands of years'.

This is an appeal to tradition, in an Irish context, our Christian tradition, it's an argument that is fundamental to those advocating a No vote, but it doesn't stand up as a reason to deny same-sex couples marriage equality. Firstly, if we are going to talk about tradition, what could be more traditional than going back to our pre-Christian definition of marriage on this island? Some fantasists like to argue 'Sure what next? Polygamy? Marrying your sister?!' What they don't acknowledge is that under our ancient Brehon Laws, which were in situ before the establishment of Christianity on this island, polygamy was not only permitted under law, but it was commonplace, but I'm not going to expand on this line of thinking because it has nothing to do with the Referendum on the 22nd of May. To address the other nonsense in one sentence, there is no demand for siblings to marry each other and no, people won't be looking to marry their pets because dogs and cats cannot consent to marriage, because they can't actually talk. The traditional definition of marriage initially arose from economic and tribal arrangements, selling your daughter for a dowry to ensure there were no more attacks on your village from a rival, ensuring maintenance of regional power, in the last few centuries, more recently, it's become more about love, not always, and call me a dreamer but I think it's a much better reason to get married, if you want to.

2) 'The ideal environment for children to be raised in is a heterosexual marriage with a mother and a father'

Aside from the fact that this has nothing to do with the upcoming referendum whatsoever, although opponents think it's the only thing it's about, I'll point out why I think this is a weak argument. Firstly, how anyone can argue that the ideal environment for children to grow up in isn't a loving, caring and secure home, irrespective of who is doing the raising and irrespective of sexual orientation, is beyond me. I'm not using this as a scientific example, and I admit it's anecdotal, something that I avoid in the most part, but I regularly see heterosexual couples off their face on drugs and alcohol, walking down an extremely busy road where I live, with a toddler in tow, 20 feet ahead of them, and wandering dangerously onto the road, tell me that despite this irresponsibility, the most important thing is that this couple is straight, and the child is in the best environment. Conversely, homosexual couples can be bad parents also, because they are also human beings. Nobody is arguing that gay parents are better than straight parents, the crux of the issue is that what children need is good parents, and I'm sorry, but your sexual orientation does not determine your ability to be a good parent. Needless to say how offensive this statement is to single parents, widows / widowers, and those who saw fit to remove unmarried mothers and their children from their biological families and put them in homes run exclusively by multiple women with not a man in sight. Children need good parents, that is the simple optimum environment.

How did this young chap turn out after being raised by two lesbian mothers?




3) 'If we let the gays marry, society will crumble'

Whoops, your logical fallacy is.....

Click image to enlarge


What's the central concern contained within this argument or viewpoint? It's two-fold, gay marriage is an attack on heterosexual marriage, and if we allow same-sex marriage, our utopian Golden Age of Western Civilisation will surely come to an end, do you remember that Golden Age? No, neither do I, but I think it alludes to a time when disease, famine, poverty were rife and most of us were living in squalor, good times I'm sure. 

The first thing that springs to my mind is that if you think same-sex marriage will undermine your heterosexual marriage, it's probably time you went to marriage counselling, because it sounds like your relationship is a bit insecure and already on shaky ground. How two men or two women you've never met, and probably never will, registering their civil marriage in Boyle, Co. Roscommon affects your marriage in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, is beyond me, and quite frankly absurd. 

Let's have a look at some statistics here as well, in 2013 there were 338 civil partnerships in Ireland, 208 male unions and 130 female unions (CSO), let's play along with the slippery slope fallacy for a minute and imagine that number was multiplied by 100 after same-sex marriage was provided for in the Constitution. That would leave us with 33,800 couples and let's give them all 2 children each shall we?! This equates to 0.75% of our population being in same-sex marriages, and 1.5% of children being raised in same-sex marriages, how in god's name will all of us heterosexual couples be able to go around our daily business without tripping over these couples and their children in their pink buggies?

It's worth bearing in mind as well that these type of 'the sky will fall on our heads' arguments were also used to oppose racially mixed marriages decades ago, because it wasn't natural, and how will people treat their children?

4) 'Their children will be bullied in school, how will they explain that they don't have a 'mommy' or a 'daddy'?'

Again, this referendum has nothing to do with children, it's about two adults, human beings I might add, registering their marriage in the eyes of the State and the Law, as David Norris said recently; 'Nobody gets down on one knee and asks 'Will you have my children?', the intent to get married and the intent to have children are separate, it may surprise some that you can have children without being married, and it may also surprise these same people that gay couples have been raising children for over 15 years in Ireland, so that ship has sailed. 

To go back to the attitudes and being made feel different or kids being bullied in school, rather than deny gay people the right to marriage in case their kids get bullied in the school yard, how about you raise your own children in your ideal, traditional marriage, not to be bigots? This is a faux concern argument, the people who use this argument are not concerned about children, they are concerned with denying gay couples the chance to get married.


Marriage Equality Advert


5) 'Shut up gays, and be happy with your Civil Partnership, you're lucky we gave it to you in the first place, marriage belongs to us'

Up until the passing of the The Children & Family Relationships Bill, 2014 recently, there were over 160 statutory differences between Civil Marriage and Civil Partnership, this has been reduced significantly since the passing of the bill but many differences still remain, creating a two-tier system that discriminates against those in civil partnerships, these differences will only be eliminated by the passing of the Marriage Referendum, if it does not pass this two-tiered system will remain in place. So when someone says, 'Sure they already have their partnerships, why can't they just be happy, why do they want to redefine marriage, can they not call it another name, they're both the same', no they are not, evidently, this is a lie.

Interestingly, whilst taking a break from crying about being denied the right to discriminate against gay people, Breda O'Brien, Patron of the Iona Institute, was exposed (again) for her hypocrisy. In a recent interview on Newstalk with Chris O'Donoghue O'Brien said that gay people had fought long and hard for the right to Civil Partnership and that; 'I think that there is the right to gay people to respect for their relationships. I think there is the right of gay people to stand up in front of their friends and neighbours and to say ‘I do’ as they do already in civil partnerships.” That's funny Breda, because yourself and the Iona Institute campaigned vigorously against the Civil Partnership Bill back in 2009, but now it's okay? Did the sky fall on our heads?

Click image to enlarge


6) Surrogacy, AHR (Assisted Human Reproduction) & Adoption

Whilst surrogacy is a recent phenomenon and a debate that is ongoing, it has nothing to do with the Marriage Referendum, and the same goes for AHR and adoption. Again the No campaign (as distinct to those who may or will vote No) conflates the issue with topics which have nothing to do with the upcoming referendum and are not being legislated for currently. While surrogacy was initially intended to come under the The Children & Family Relationships Bill, Minister Leo Varadkar felt it was not correct to include it under it's terms and it should be legislated for with a separate bill, that seems logical to me, but it also highlights the fact that it is entirely separate to this referendum, despite what those posters that have been plastered around the country would say. Surrogacy, AHR and adoption are issues that affect heterosexual and homosexual couples, and not one without the other. 

It seems to me that infertile heterosexual couples and single parents should be equally offended by the statements on the posters that say 'Surrogacy? She Needs Her Mother for Life, Not Just 9 Months', imagine a child who is being raised by her father because the mother passed away seeing that poster and wondering? 'Am I different because I don't have a mum?'. Surrogacy and AHR are not homosexual issues, and have nothing to do with the referendum. Funnily enough, if not surprising, the chief spokesperson of Mothers & Fathers Matter, Keith Mills, who happens to be gay, which is irrelevant, has admitted in an exchange on Twitter with Colm O'Gorman that surrogacy has nothing to do with the referendum, yet he has organised the placing of these posters around the country. What's going on here? Why are there individuals scaremongering on the one hand, whilst admitting elsewhere that the message on the posters is wrong?

Keith Mills Colm O'Gorman
Click image to enlarge


I also find it quite ironic that the only organisation in the history of the Irish Republic to forcibly remove children from their natural biological parents, and sell them to couples who could not naturally conceive, for financial gain, were the Catholic Church, an inconvenient truth you never hear the Iona Institute or Mothers & Fathers Matter discuss. I mention these two organisations as if they are separate, but they are not, Mothers & Fathers Matter are a front so the Iona Institute can pretend it is not involving itself in the referendum campaign so it doesn't have to divulge the source of their income, something they have refused to do repeatedly despite multiple requests from SIPO (Standards in Public Office). To avoid such scrutiny Iona members claim they are only working in a personal capacity when they are discussing the referendum (which is their right) and that the organisation is not getting involved in the campaign, except for maybe, these....



And on their website the most commonly discussed topic by an organisation registered as a religious charity is, you've guessed it, a civil matter....



Anyway, these guys require an article in itself so I'm going to park the bus with them there, if you want to find out more I recommend the following sites http://www.broadsheet.ie/tag/iona-institute/http://bocktherobber.com/2013/06/what-exactly-is-the-iona-institute/

I would also add that unlike owning a dog, where you are legally required to have a licence, you do not require a licence to have a child. When it comes to adoption in Ireland, it is a laborious process that can take years, summed up well in this article from The Irish Independent about the obstacles faced by a straight, married couple who cannot have children. The fact of the matter is that straight or gay couples looking to adopt have to go through an arduous process, and rightly so, outlining their personal attributes which would make them good parents, with testimonies from others, their education, their financial status, Garda vetting, and many other criteria before they are even considered as suitable for adoption. So if a gay couple make it through all of those checks and balances, you can be damn sure they are going to be able to provide an excellent home and upbringing for any child. Here I am justifying something that is already happening because opponents of the Referendum want to derail and obfuscate the real issue at hand.

Conclusion: 

I know I've left out a lot of the things that I wanted to say on this topic because I can't remember half of them, should have written them down probably, and while I think it's important to highlight what we are voting on and what we are not voting on, a big motivation for me was to ensure that people actually do go and vote. The age-group of 18-35 are, for the most part, big on equality, big on civil marriage, big on creating a society where there is no discrimination, but one thing we're not big on is actually registering to vote and going to the polling station, we like to talk the talk but for some reason, as has been shown in countless general elections and previous referenda, we have the lowest turnout of any demographic. That's a big issue in terms of getting the Marriage Referendum passed, the polls still show a strong Yes vote, but it is eroding, it's one thing telling a survey caller on the phone you're in favour of Same-Sex Marriage but it's an entirely different matter to actually physically casting your vote, that's where the referendum will be won or lost, depending on your viewpoint of course. 

As a straight, married man, it genuinely upsets me that my gay brothers and sisters in the country I was born and live in, do not have an equal status to me, people say it's not about equality, it is about equality, it's about two people getting married in a civil ceremony and being recognised as the same as every other couple irrespective of sexual orientation. I have not heard one argument that made me step back and think, 'You know what, that's a valid point and I never really considered it or thought of it that way', I've been hoovering up both sides of the debate almost every day for the last 2 years. They said marriage would be undermined in 2009, was it? Has your marriage been undermined by civil partnership? They're saying it will be undermined again, and that the uppity gays will destroy our centuries old society, well do you know what, grand claims require grand evidence, and I've not seen a shred of it, so I'm voting Yes. We're all going to die some day, some people need to stop spending their live's trying to oppress other people and just live and let live. If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading, and normal service will be resumed shortly! I'll sign off with a John Grant song and video that I hope will make me smile for a change when the results come in on the 23rd of May.


John Grant, 'Glacier'


Information:

Are you registered to Vote? Check the electoral register here https://www.checktheregister.ie/PublicPages/Default.aspx?uiLang=

The deadline for registering is Tuesday, 5th of May.

Referendum Commission website: http://refcom2015.ie/

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