Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Marriage Referendum

Voter registration ends today for one of the most important referenda of our generation: a motion to amend the Irish constitution so that same-sex couples can marry. 

As it stands, same-sex couples can only get a civil partnership, which entitles them to some of the benefits of marriage but is sorely lacking; marriagequality.ie has a list of over 160 differences between civil partnership and marriage.

Civil partnership says that LGBT people are different, lesser, not deserving of the chance to show their commitment to each other because what they have isn’t real love. It was certainly a step in the right direction when it was first introduced years ago, but it’s time to move in and stop treating LGBT couples as “separate but equal”. You know who else liked to say “separate but equal”? Racists in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement.

The motion to allow gay couples (shorthand for same-sex couples) to marry is a simple one, despite what homophobes make it out to be. It’s just remembering that we’re all people no matter our gender, instead of specifying “one man and one woman” or “two men” or “two women” – it means that you can get married to the person you love without discrimination as to your gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Simple stuff.

Any nationalists out there? Patriots? As Sir Ian McKellen says, this is one of the first opportunities Ireland can have to be a leader, a pioneer. How often does that happen? Vote yes.

After seeing the No posters plastered around Dublin, totally covering the place, it's really important not to get complacent. The Yes campaign has been moving mostly through social media and online, and I just hope it's enough.

To anyone not registered to vote, or who doesn’t plan to #usethevote: it’s sad that most of my generation can’t vote, when we’re the most fervent supporters of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage. Instead, we have to reach through a huge generation gap and trust older citizens, so many of whom are blinded by traditional Catholic dogma and homophobia, to make the right choice. We in the younger generations are surrounded by LGBT people we love as brothers, sisters, friends, family and idols, while the oldest generation will barely be affected by the referendum. So, to those in the 18-to 25 age category and above who support human rights and want to reward love:

Vote yes. Make grá the law.

So let’s quickly deal with the objections to it from the No side.

This is redefining marriage
 No, it’s not. Marriage is defined to any reasonable person as a legal and social commitment between loving partners who want to spend their life together (or variations on that theme).

In reality, this isn’t redefining anything. LGBT couples are already trying to live the way straight couples do – which is an admirable endeavour, considering how little support they get from society and the State.

All you’re doing is correcting a flaw in the legislature that denies a tenth of our population human rights.

Think of the children
Say it with me now: the children do not care. Children are among the most accepting of us, and they’re just going to be curious (which is a good thing).

Gay couples won’t exclusively rear gay children, just as straight people don’t just produce straight children.

I promise you, children languishing in orphanages or abusive homes would be a lot better off with a loving gay couple.

And finally, saying that a child can’t be raised properly without a mother and a father is insulting to single parents, people whose parent(s) work overseas and anyone else who doesn’t fit the perfect nuclear family mold. These people can and do raise children just fine – it’s to do with the love and care you can provide a child, not to do with superficial attributes like your gender or sexuality.

It’s against God’s law
 Firstly, I’ve never seen “God hates fags” in the Ten Commandments. Secondly, are you really going to deny people human rights in the here and now just for a figure you don’t actually know exists? Are you going to look into the eyes of your gay child and tell them this mythical figure is more important to you than they are? If so, gay people may have some parenting skills to teach you.

If you’re one of the nicer, more moderate types, your God preaches love. Follow that message.

Marriage is a religious sacrament
Marriage existed before organised religion and probably will after. You’re thinking of holy matrimony, which is a sacrament (hint: “holy”). Look, if you insist on excluding same-sex couples from getting married in a church, go on ahead. Whatever. Just don’t interfere when they get married in a civil registry office and go on to enjoy all the benefits and drawbacks of married life. It’s none of your business, church.

It’s against nature
 Hundreds of animal species show homosexual behaviour. Besides, these glasses I’m wearing right now aren’t natural, but you don’t see anyone clamouring to make them illegal.

The family is the fundamental unit of society
 Possibly, but how is this relevant? It still is. Unless you think nuclear families are the only real ones, in which case I’m gonna have to tell you to get your head out from under a rock.

Next they’ll want polygamist marriage!

Look, I wouldn’t go in for polygamy myself. It just seems like the hassle and commitment increases for each person, and that would be hard to handle. If people can pull that off, all the better for them.

Polygamy would definitely be an administrative hassle, but sure look. Just hire more civil servants. You’ll live. And unemployment in Ireland goes down! Bam, gay marriage saving the economy.

What if people want to marry dogs?
 Yes. Because dogs are renowned for their ability to hold a pen and sign marriage contracts*.

*Not my own joke.

What about surrogacy?
 Right, so the word surrogacy has been appearing on a lot of Vote No posters around town, and I have no idea why. Not relevant. This referendum has nothing to do with surrogacy or custom-order babies.

The Yes side is pressuring me!
 Wow, you poor thing. Imagine being called a bigot. That must be so much worse than having your rights denied and being bullied and harassed for who you are. I have a suggestion: if you don’t want to be called a bigot, don’t be one. The ad I saw that said the Yes side was pressuring people almost swayed me, and I started wondering, being the skeptic I am, if that was fair. But now that I’ve thought about it, I realise that the marriage referendum is a simple issue and a simple YES. The No side have been continuously issuing misinformation because they don’t have a case.

I'm not homophobic, I just don't think we should dilute the meaning of marriage
If the involvement of those nasty gays dilutes the meaning of marriage for you, you're homophobic. Work on that and stop making excuses. 

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I’m probably just preaching to the choir here, but anyway: if you can, vote yes. If not, join us in advocating for equal treatment of LGBT couples in Ireland. We can still have an impact. 

Elle Loughran

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