Friday, 27 March 2015
An Bille um an gCeathrú Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht (Comhionannas Pósta) 2015: Céim an Choiste - Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015: Committee Stage
The Minister stated on a number of occasions that the scheme which goes with the referendum proposal makes clear that religious organisations will not be required to provide marriage ceremonies and so on. Nobody has suggested that it should be otherwise. This is a hare which no one opposed to the referendum has raised during the debate. This is one example of how the people who are most concerned about this referendum proposal are not throwing out just any old argument. If they do not think something is an issue, then they do not say it. There is no exaggeration here. Legitimate questions are being raised about knock-on effects. I will kick myself if the referendum is passed and if the result is used as a way to cut across the freedom of religious bodies in the future. One simply does not know what will happen when the courts start interpreting constitutional and legal provisions in accordance with prevailing ideas. I do not believe the latter will happen, particularly in view of the existing protections in the Constitution. I mention this merely as an example and I say to the Minister that nobody has gone there and I do not believe she needs to do so either. Obviously, however, what she tells us is her own business.
Senator Zappone is one of the most articulate and reasonable people on the side which is proposing change in this instance. I have great respect for the Senator. In a recent article in The Irish Timesshe invited me to debate the issues publicly with her. I would have absolutely no problem doing so.I enjoy any engagement I have with Senator Zappone and we agree on many issues. We have supported each other in the past on issues such as the dignity of women and the need to criminalise people purchasing the services of other people in prostitution, etc. I greatly admire her commitment on that issue. Nevertheless, I must insist on the justice of my position that equality is capable of being interpreted in many different ways. I see the position I am arguing for as very much about insisting on the equal rights of children to have the father-mother experience wherever possible and for that never to be deliberately interfered with. I see a greater need and onus on us legislators to legislate for children's best interests as they cannot speak for themselves nearly as well as adults. The children in question are yet to be born. There is a body of evidence about the value for children of the father-mother relationship, particularly in marriage. Even if there was not such evidence, there is a right to that experience.
The Minister argues in supporting the ruling out of order of the two amendments that this is not relevant. Will the Minister confirm that if in future it is proposed to legislate to restrict donor-assisted human reproduction to father-mother couples, nothing in this amendment could be invoked to render that legislative proposal unconstitutional?
I have another question for the Minister but I want to hear her address that point.