With the gay marriage referendum scheduled for May 22 i thought this would be an ideal time to write a blog post about my feelings regarding the anti side and about Ireland moving forward. These are momentous times we are living in and the buzz surrounding this particular vote is going to be heated and exciting.
My mother is outraged that we will be spending so much money scheduling a referendum so a ‘few thousand people can get married’. Despite how bigoted this sounds she is, in fact, for the idea. What she is infuriated by, and i agree with this, is that we are required to vote for whether or not our gay friends and family are worthy enough to avail of the same set of rights that we do. Their happiness and futures are going to be decided by a vote, attended by a fairly high proportion of us straight people who are deciding on something that does not directly affect us. To counter my mother’s argument though, i think the cost of holding a referendum is a small price to pay for what we will achieve if we vote ‘yes’ – a more open-minded, inclusive, accepting and equal society for current and future generations. Allowing gay marriage is just one more step in proving that all members of this country are equal, no matter what (or who!) they do behind closed doors. This is a something that has no price tag.
But why do gays want to get married? Is that not a religious union? This is one comment i hear a lot. I understand, to some extent, the reasoning. However, marriage has transcended its religious stance and is considered a social union more than anything else. Marriages nowadays are very rarely unions between two people under the scrutiny of a divine being. I am not religious at all. The older i get the more skeptical i become and i maintain that i wouldn’t get married in a church because it is not what i believe. But my (hypothetical) marriage would be no less valid than someone who had a Catholic ceremony. And marriage is kind of like Christmas… It started out as a religious thing but really, if we’re being honest, is all about the presents! We don’t exclude non-religious people and people of other religions celebrating Christmas so why exclude a certain group of people from the unity of marriage?
But won’t somebody please think of the children? The adoption thing! This is baffling to me. Because the referendum is about gay marriage, not adoption. The idea that a child is best raised with a mother and a father is a valid argument. But surely there is no ‘ideal’ family. Surely two loving parents is as good a set-up as anyone could ask for. And if the anti side are actually going to adopt this as their main argument does this not question the legitimacy of single-parents? Single parents, according to the anti-crowd, are not an ideal situation for a child to be reared in. But they are allowed have all the rights. Why? Because they love their children. There is no ‘perfect family’ and its time people stopped acting like they can dictate their view of what they think this constitutes.
Realistically, the anti-crowd were creative enough when coming up with this adoption thing. They really needed a slogan that packed some punch, that caught the attention of the conservatives, that pulled at people’s heart strings. What better to do that than the image of deprived children? I guess they couldn’t really try and convince people to vote ‘no’ using slogans such as ‘vote no because we are afraid of gays’ or ‘vote no because gays getting married devalues your own marriage’. Even though these are probably the majority of the reason most people would vote no in this country. No, these stances would illicit quite a lot of bad press. Better to stick with the children thing!
Best not to listen to all of the anti-crowd’s fear-mongering. During the Irish divorce referendum in 1995 the No Divorce Campaign had billboards with the slogan ‘Hello Divorce… Bye Bye Daddy”. People must have seen through this farce, thankfully. Twenty years on and Ireland remains the country with the lowest rate of divorce in Europe (although this could be because you have to be separated for five years before you can qualify for divorce). Strangely, all of the fathers didn’t collectively feck off in search of brighter horizons, as the No side would have had people believe. Just a lesson in questioning these worse-case-scenarios.
But won’t gay marriage redefine marriage as we know it?
No. It wont. You define your own marriage. Nobody else. If a few gay men and women getting married somehow makes you question the legitimacy of your own marriage then there are some problems there. My friend’s dad believes this. In all other respects he is a liberal, open-minded man but he has tunnel-vision on this particular issue. Redefining marriage is, however, not a bad thing. As Gene Kerrigan (one journalist whose opinion my dad respects) pointed out in his article in the Independent on Sunday that we are continually redefining marriage and, in doing so, civilising our once quite brutal little island. We have, in the past, shamed women, sent them to Magdelene Laundries, adopted out their ‘illegitimate’ children. Why? Because ‘motherhood belonged only within marriage’. If motherhood existed outside of a marriage then this would ‘redefine marriage’. And we couldn’t be having that type of nonsense. Down with that sort of thing!
Since those barbaric days we have reconstituted marriage by allowing divorce, by abolishing laws that allowed men to rape their wives, that allowed men to beat their wives with impunity, that forced women to give up their public service jobs once they got married, by getting rid of the term ‘illegitimacy’. Married couples can now also avail of contraception for family planning. So yes, we are ‘redefining’ marriage… for the better. And the people who think these things are in not in the public interest need to have their ideas ‘redefined’.
Ok, i have, as my friend Ciara would say been up on a ‘soapbox’ for too many words. My dad tells me i should keep these succinct but i don’t seem able to. This is, in my opinion, an issue that deserves more than a footnote.
So i would urge everyone to go out and vote because this is not a ‘sure thing’, nothing ever is. And as the purple poster image says: when you vote yes, you are ‘making history’. And don’t settle for just voting yes, talk about it with your friends and family, everyone you meet. ‘Be an ambassador for equality’.
I am always terribly embarrassed telling my foreign friends about how long it took Ireland to legalise contraception and divorce. Come May, hopefully, we can finally be proud that, for once, we are leading the charge for equality.
Gene Kerrigan’s article: http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/gene-kerrigan/we-led-the-fight-for-family-values-31049258.html