This guest post is written by my friend Stephen Spillane. Here’s a photo of us together.
My little introduction and any notes are in italics.
For those of you in Ireland, this post needs no introduction, but for my readers abroad this post relates to tomorrow’s national vote in consideration of the Marriage Referendum. I admire Stephen for so many reasons and am appreciative that on the eve of the Marriage Referendum vote, he has allowed me to share his very passionate and personal words as well as pragmatic responses to challenges from the opposition.
Before sharing Stephen’s moving and sincere words, I want to share the exact wording of the referendum. The bill as introduced proposes to insert a new subsection 4 to Article 41 of the Constitution. The text would be:
Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex. (in English)
Féadfaidh beirt, gan beann ar a ngnéas, conradh pósta a dhéanamh de réir dlí. or
Féadfaidh beirt, cibé acu is fir nó mná iAd, conradh a dhéanamh i leith pósadh de réir dlí. (in Irish)
In Stephen’s Words:
I, for one, am looking forward to walking into the polling station and voting YES. This vote is possibly the most important one I have been involved in. It’s a campaign that has united many of us. From across the political spectrum, people with no interest in politics or campaigns, members of the LGBT Community, friends and family of the community, and passionate believers in equality, we have come together with an amazing positive campaign that is not only active across county Cork, but across the entire country. It’s amazing to be knocking on doors with members of Fianna Fail, Labour, Sinn Fein, and, of course, Fine Gael.
The Campaign for Marriage Equality
I have been involved in many campaigns over the years. And this one has shocked me, by the sheer amount of people getting involved and the diversity of people all wanting to do their bit. Its incredible.
Every political party can be proud of what they are doing, but we in Fine Gael can be very proud in the leadership of An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and, of course, Minister Simon Coveney who is doing Trojan work alongside the Civil Society campaign to ensure we get a Yes vote tomorrow.
This campaign is an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes you have to walk away from a door feeling like you’ve had a punch to the stomach and tears in your eyes, other times you come away with a kick in your step and tears in your eyes from listening to an 80-year-old women who said she was definitely voting Yes because it is right thing to do.
This campaign is a personal campaign for me and for many others. We are knocking on doors asking to be treated equally. That is tough, not just on the shoe leather, but emotionally and mentally as well, that is why I ask that if you aren’t out canvassing, for whatever reason, that you are minding those who are.
When I came out 10 years ago, I never imagined we would be having this campaign, and it is a testament to us as a country and society. The fact that I no longer have to go down a side street or knock on a door to go into a gay bar, but beyond acceptance to the fact that nearly any bar I now walk into either has its staff wearing “Yes” badges or has a sign prominently saying they support a Yes Vote . The fact that if I was to hold my boyfriend’s hand on the street or in a pub, that no one would say a word. This is starkly different to times when I had abuse shouted at me on Patrick St, kicked in Dublin, and beaten up in Germany.
So now to see the support from popular Ireland – sports stars, celebrities, and business people – really has emphasised how important this referendum is. This along with the response we get on the doors, on the street, in pub, at work and at home is out of this world.
It’s been an emotional week for the campaign and the community in Cork. With Loafers closing last week, a bar that was part and parcel of the community in Cork since 1983. But as with life we must pick ourselves up and continue on.
But I take huge comfort in my faith, and in the support I, and many others, have received from the clergy within my Church. The fact that two Bishop’s and over 40 Church of Ireland clergy, five Roman Catholic clergy and others in faith have publicly stated that are voting Yes. This point towards the fact that there are many other people of faith who are voting Yes. I have been privileged to be involved in Faith for Marriage Equality and to be engaged with talking with people of faith, and using faith positively to show that this is the way forward, that we believe all are created equal and should be treated equally by the state.
We have come so far as a society, and that’s is recognised by nearly everyone. Who have gone from treating homosexuality as a criminal act to voting on Marriage Equality in just over 20 years. I think you would be hard pressed to find another country who made that progress so quickly
Our job in this campaign is to talk. It is to engage with as many people as possible, to ask them to vote Yes and if they are voting Yes that it is so important that turn up to vote. We must be absolutely clear, this is about Civil Marriage only. I repeat, only about civil marriage.
Children will not be affected by a Yes vote.
I am extremely proud to be involved with this campaign. Not only through Young Fine Gael, but volunteering in my free time in the office with YesEquality Cork and by canvassing. Let’s make history – together.
What are the Arguments?
Well there are two broad sides to it. Most of the arguments on the Yes side are on the Liberal side while most of the No arguments are on Conservative side.
Consistent with values of support for tradition and commitment to ‘natural’ hierarchy, authority, and property, conservative critics of gay marriage have portrayed it as a symbol of a permissive society. They have also depicted it as a mortal threat to one of the most venerable social institutions (‘traditional’ marriage and family) stemming an historical post-religious tide towards individualism and moral relativism. They appeal to the history of the constitution and how it under Article 41.3.1 “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.”
In response to conservative arguments, and consistent with the liberal values of individual liberty and rights, toleration, and pluralism, the advocates of gay marriage contend that it should be understood as a civil liberties issue and a matter of equal protection under the law. Some, particularly in the gay community, have claimed it is also about respect for an individual’s right to love whomever they choose.
They contend that they are looking for equality from the state and not from ‘religious’ institutions, who will still be protected under the Civil Registration Act 2004.
On the conservative side they claim that Civil Partnerships are enough recognition for Gay and Lesbian couples in Ireland and that no further recognition is needed. They also claim that by opening up the institution of Marriage, that slippery slope
Those supporting the amendment claim that Civil Partnerships are not enough. When first created there were over 160 differences in law between a CP and a Marriage. This number has reduced due to tax legislation and immigration laws.
But as the US Court of Appeals in 2012 put it “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”
Another argument raised is, of course, that of Children. Those on the no-side claim that all Children have “right to a father and a mother” and that changing the definition of Marriage will dilute this right. They also claim that same-sex couples are unable to bring up children as one “role model” would be missing
This argument ignores the fact that 1 in 4 children live in a household that is not headed by a mother and father. A ban on Gays and Lesbians Marrying does not prevent the fact that many Gay and Lesbian couples do have children and are raising them.
This, of course, will be dealt with separately by the Children and Family Relationship Bill.
Finally, the argument that is advanced by some on the No side is that this will undermine Marriage. This is an argument that is being pushed mostly by Churches and the those involved in Faith-based groups. Though it is very hard to back this up.
Marriage Equality would have most a neutral impact on Marriage.
The South African Constitutional Court, 2005 Argument that permitting same-sex couples into the institution of marriage would devalue marriage “is profoundly demeaning to same-sex couples, and inconsistent with the constitutional requirement that everyone be treated with equal concern and respect.”
Also the fact that Marriage Equality is now available in 17 from France to New Zealand to countries around the world and the Majority of United States and no negative fall-out has occurred shows the slippery ground the No side are on.
Tomorrow, the world will look to Ireland as it casts a groundbreaking national popular vote on Marriage Equality.
Brethren, I urge you to get involved. To learn the positions, on what ever side you may be on. I urge you most importantly to vote tomorrow. And I hope, that you will vote Yes. Thank you.
On a side note, do not wear your YES Equality button or tee into the polling place and do not take a selfie of you with your vote or yourself in the voting booth. These actions could jeopardise your vote’s validity.