Tuesday, 10 March 2015
An Bille um an gCeathrú Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht (Comhionannas Pósta) 2015: An Dara Céim - Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015: Second Stage
Some of the reactionary forces in Irish society who have crawled out of the woodwork in recent weeks could do with reflecting on these words of the late Harvey Milk:
It takes no compromise to give people their rights... it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.Look at the statement today from the general meeting of the Irish Catholic bishops which opposes same-sex marriage. What is the rationale for that? They state that "the union of a man and a woman in marriage, open to the procreation of children, is a gift from God who created us 'male and female'". That is a marginally more sophisticated version of the argument, "it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve", nothing more. The argument that a marriage is something that is open to the procreation of children is clearly nonsensical. Will the bishops argue against the elderly being able to marry? Will they argue for a referendum? There are lots of married couples who do not have children, by choice or not by choice. It is a fundamentally mistaken and wrong idea about what is marriage.
They also argue that "Mothers and fathers bring different, yet complementary gifts and strengths into a child’s life". This is an echo of the argument of the "No" side that every child deserves a mother and a father. It is an insult to the LGBTQ couples who currently raise families, to single mothers who currently raise one quarter of all children on this island and to the 30,000 single fathers who do the same. It is also an insult with no factual basis because there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that a heterosexual couple makes better parents than a homosexual couple.
I say to the Catholic Church and to any other church that nobody will force them to have religious same-sex marriage but they should stop trying to impose their conservative values on society as a whole. It was summed up by Panti Bliss, who said, "Get the hell out of my life".
As for the Government, it takes every opportunity possible to express, in particular, through the person of the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Ó Ríordáin, the fear that those who are anti-water charges and anti-austerity will vote "No". It is deeply cynical. It attempts to portray the anti-water charges protesters as some sort of Neanderthals, in contradiction to the sophisticated pro-austerity liberals of the Labour Party. Believe me, the vast majority of anti-water charges anti-austerity protesters are not that stupid. They know this is not the Government's or the Labour Party's referendum. It is a referendum as a result of pressure from below of thousands of courageous LGBTQ activists who have fought for their rights.
They know that this is a great opportunity to further isolate the forces of reaction and backwardness in Ireland, to show that society has moved on and that the control that the church holds over the institutions of the State is wildly out of step with its influence in society as a whole.
A massive "Yes" vote will be a blow to the traditional establishment in this country and another big step forward towards real equality although it will not be the end of the battle. The ongoing legal discrimination against LGBT people, for example, against gay teachers in schools or against gay and bisexual men donating blood, must be ended. The homophobic bullying and physical violence that many face must be challenged but a "Yes" vote will be a powerful signal that homophobia is not okay and that LGBTQ people are entitled to equal rights.