So I’m not Gay – what’s it got to do with me?
The following has often been used to defend against political apathy, and it speaks to us as strongly today as it did to those who first read it over sixty years ago.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I want to bring this up in relation to the upcoming referendum on the Irish Constitution regarding the addition of the words “without regard to gender” when we speak about “marriage”. In recent opinion polls we are told that while the majority would vote Yes, this support is “soft”. Soft support is no support, and if we sleepwalk into believing that it has no effect on me so I won’t vote – it will not pass. If this was up to “only” those effected (in this case LGBT citizens) – I’d be fine with that…but we the majority, have the responsibility to either to defend them, or to continue to marginalise them.
The reasons I am voting Yes are quite simple, but not I believe simplistic. But first let me set out my own personal frame of reference. I am an active, practicing Roman Catholic. I am a married for almost 25 years, and we have two wonderful daughters. I am also an adopted person. Currently, this addendum to our constitution will not be of any benefit me personally and it will never change in any way shape or form, the privilege I enjoy in my own marriage.
What Article 41 says
When this debate first began, I will declare, my “natural” instinct was to vote Yes. Over the course of the past weeks I have listened very carefully to voices on all sides of the campaign and carried out my own research and increased my own knowledge of the issue at stake. What first strikes you is when you actually read Article 41 of the Constitution of Ireland, as I hope all voters will have done, is how narrowly we define the word “family”. The No side have said that because the government choose to place this addendum into this section, it is no longer about just marriage, but about “family”, and to a large extent they are correct in this. Here is what it ACTUALLY say about the family:
(I have left it intact, but I’ve not show the bits regarding civil divorce or the economic issue about a woman’s role in the home)
1 1° The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.
2° The State, therefore, guarantees to protect the Family in its constitution and authority, as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State.
3 1° The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded, and to protect it against attack.
What struck me about this first is that the ONLY constitutionally protected family are a married couple. Nothing about children, nothing about families who choose not to be married but have children…they are NOT a family in our constitution. You do not have to have children to be married, and if you don’t get married and have children they are not a family under our constitution.
Since the 1990s single people have been able to put themselves forward to adopt children in this state. This is irrespective of their own sexual orientation. There is no law now that says a child eligible for adoption must first and foremost be placed with a married heterosexual couple. The determination is based upon, what is in the best interest of that child in their unique circumstances. When people say that you are deliberately denying a child a mother or a father who is biologically not linked to them, that is TRUE. That is exactly what we do in adoption, that is what it is. A biological mother, and that mother alone, signs consent forms for adoption. That is denying the “rights” of the father is it not. And both biological parents are not then linked to that child.
The VAST majority of surrogacy that takes place is for heterosexual couple, not homosexual ones. That’s a simple fact of demographics…but none the less true. At present this area of AHR is the “wild west” in this country. There is no legislation dealing with it, and therefore, couples and singles, avail of it with no government intervention. It does not make any difference if you are married or not, if you want a child, and you have the resources, you can (within reason) do this now. So the chair of the Referendum Commission was asked then if a future government could legislate in this area and say ONLY Opposite Sex Married Couple could avail of this – the answer is no – unless…there is proof that that model was the only model in which you could raise a child. That to me seems a good thing – not allowing a government to randomly discriminate.
There is no RIGHT to procreation by artificial means, if there was, all infertile married couple in this country could have demanded for years that they receive this service as a right. You do not need to have children to be married, or even be “open” to having children to be married. Otherwise we would not permit a 70 year old woman who had a hysterectomy in her 40s to marry, or a man who is infertile due to a physical issue.
Religious Teaching in Schools
At the moment we have constitutional laws and legislation that protect our right to religious freedom. Due mainly to our state not providing education, faith based schools have been the dominant educators of primary and secondary level children. The ethos of the school will not change (unless of course the school changes it). The bigger change in recent years was the introduction of civil divorce. Whatever is currently taught in faith based schools on divorce…the same with be for same sex marriage. Faith schools are not forced to teach about artificial contraception (a sin in the Roman Catholic church for example) but many (if not most) choose to do so.
The Yes Side are being Nasty to the No Side (and vice versa)
There has been a lot of very passionate and emotional language and action during this debate. I don’t believe that EVERBODY who makes an informed decision to vote No is “homophobic”, no more than I think EVERYBODY who makes an informed decision to vote Yes is “anti-church”. Paddy Manning and Keith Mills get abuse on social media as gay men advocating a No vote. I and many other also get abuse because as an active practicing Roman Catholic I am advocating a Yes vote. It can be nasty…but in a sense..that’s what debating is about. These keyboard warriors who hurl abuse on either side don’t influence me…and if your only argument is to shout down – you may as well remain quiet.
Finally – I’m voting yes because I wish to take a Pro Marriage stance. I have been in this institution for almost 25 years. I didn’t need to ask the permission of the government or the wider community, to marry. I hate to think what that must feel like. Reading Ursula Hannigan’s stark and moving piece in a recent Irish Times article makes me terribly ashamed of how we have marginalised the LGBT community. How DARE we make any person feel like this. I am voting yes, not because I’ve been influenced by money in the campaign (personally I didn’t see any of it if it existed), but because of the real and personal stories those in the LGBT community had the courage and determination to share with us…they shouldn’t have had to defend their relationships as equal, but they had to…and we owe it to them to listen. They cannot do this alone, they can only do it if the majority of people gay or straight go out and VOTE!