Okay, time to get serious.
Ireland is voting to change the way our society treats a minority group within the next few months. Like any referendum, both sides have strong voices, and strong opinions on why the other side is clearly wrong. Our last referendum was a rather tame affair in comparison to this one; it seems that the debate as to whether to afford the same marital rights to same sex couples as to heterosexual couples has stirred up just a tad more feeling than whether or not 21 year olds should be allowed run for president when Michael D is finished reciting poetry to us, or indeed the rights of children being written into the constitution.
I am part of the generation which is expected to be the easy yes vote. I can see why this is, so much change has occurred in law regarding the rights afforded to LGBT individuals in our lifetime – until I was two years old, it was illegal to be homosexual, never mind being allowed to live freely and happily as an equal in society. And I am most definitely on the yes side – I believe that it’s the right side of history to be on. I am surrounded by lots of wonderful people in my life of all genders and sexualities and there is no part of me which can understand why my heterosexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex should have more of a grounding in law and society than that of my friends who love each other just as much as I love my partner. This is not what I want for the world my son is to grow up in – I want him to grow up knowing that whoever he loves, whatever their gender or sexual orientation, I support him and will love him unconditionally, and will hope that his peers and the couples in his life will get to express their love in an official capacity.
Marraige is not all about love. It is a legal agreement between two people that yes, is built on a loving relationship, but more importantly affords both individuals in the coupling certain rights regarding children, property, shared assets, even taxation. In our country which treats a co-habitant couple as a de facto married couple for the sake of any benefits they may be able to receive from the state, they do not afford the same rights to them until they “put a ring on it” and get their paperwork together. Refusal to allow two people in a long term relationship to have legal acknowledgement of their bond (civil partnership does not go far enough) is simply ludicrous.
But, clearly there are some who disagree with me. They view marriage as only something which should be entered into by a man and a woman, for the sole purpose of having children and giving every child a mother and a father. They refuse to separate the union of two people from the chance of them having children; and wish for the status quo to remain as such and for only heterosexual couples be allowed to be married. The question they are fighting against doesn’t seem to be matching up to what this referendum is about; there is an entirely separate bill dealing with adoption of children by homosexual couples and other such things. This will merely enshrine in law the right of all citizens, regardless of their sexuality to marry the person they love, once both parties are consenting and over the age of eighteen (and not married to anyone else of course). It does not mention children, as I said, it’s being dealt with elsewhere. This has not stopped the flurry of hate speak from the No Campaign from making the matter all about the children.
Last year, we saw the drama which ensued from Panti-gate, when we learned as a nation that calling someone a homophobe because of their actions in the past can apparently get you in a lot of trouble. We were also shown great strength in the powerful speech given by Panti in her noble call (check it out here) Certain bodies have also continued with their pursuit of keeping marriage for the straight people with videos, rallies and leaflets. Leaflets linking known paedophiles to the marriage equality campaign, and videos about the case of man-woman marriage have circulated the internet and our letterboxes. It’s not a pretty sight.
There is hope though. In recent days, I’ve come across three lovely little snippets on the internet, which I’d like to share.
The first, is an absolutely brilliant concept from a little stationary company in Dublin which before this I’d never heard of. Daintree Paper, who cite their favourite thing in the world as being paper, have said they needed to find a way to deal with the leaflets – so made confetti out of what they call “100% recycled lies”, marketing it as “A Shred Of Decency”. I was linked to the website www.shredofdecency.ie by a friend of mine on Facebook, and ordered my confetti for the princely sum of five euros, reassured that all money raised was going to the Yes Equality campaign. It’s a fantastic campaign, and I really do hope that it succeeds – the No side does have a lot of money behind it as we’ve seen various times over the last few years, so the Yes side does need all the help that it can get. My confetti arrived within a day in the prettiest envelope and packaging – not that I expected anything else of a stationary company. I’ve yet to find a use for it celebrating yet, but it’s in my box of pretty things waiting for that day to come.
The second, an oldie but a goodie. In response to a video created by the Iona Institute which was making the case for heterosexual only marriage, the brilliant Tara Flynn posted this video which definitely gets the point across. This was published in 2013, but as nothing much has changed, it’s still relevant.
Finally, the last bit of the internet that got me thinking about all this during the week was this video by James Mitchell. Yes, him who I mentioned last week as well, for roughly the same thing, but another video that made me cry. This time, he was ringing his Granny to ask her if she’d vote to allow marriage equality come into law; inspired by a video from Trinity College Student Union asking the same (which you can see here). It’s gorgeous and lovely and his granny is absolutely kick-ass. Check it out here
So thats me on this whole issue. It’s important and we can’t be complacent that the vote will definitely go the right way, so it’s really important that if you can vote, you do vote. Vote to allow loving couples, regardless of their sexuality to marry, to be connected in law and their relationship recognised by the state. Vote to end the inequality. Vote to make grá the law. Vote to make our society a more equal place for our kids to grow up in; you know it’s the right thing to do.