Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’ll be well aware that Ireland are just over three weeks away from voting on changing the constitution to allow same-sex couples to legally marry. At the moment, two people of the same sex cannot legally marry in Ireland, and if this referendum passes it will give them equal rights to opposite-sex couples who choose to marry. I have always been an advocate of equal rights for all, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion and so on. It’s been wonderful to experience the sea of support for the Yes vote in the past few months; it is a credit to the young people of Ireland that the new generation wants same-sex couples to be recognised equally in the eyes of the law. In spite of the bullying and discrimination that LGBT people experience in this country on a daily basis, they and the people around them are still rising up to show that they are not afraid to say YES to equality and to love.
Having been involved with the likes of Amnesty International and Student Politics for many years as well as debate, I have always been one for a good argument. Of course, this should be a two-sided debate – there are pros and cons to everything, and everyone has a right to express their opinion. For too long in this country, the negative voices have risen above the positive, trying to keep us in the dark ages when it comes to progression and equal rights. Overshadowed by the Catholic Church, women have been denied the right to choose when it comes to abortion, and similarly, same-sex couples have been denied the right to be recognised by their peers as married spouses. Quite often the government have taken a back seat and left it up to the people to decide what they want instead of simply introducing legislation, as has been done in other countries. A few months ago, I saw this as a cowardly position, that they were afraid to rock the boat and offend the church. However, having seen the outpouring of support for the Yes vote from all political parties in the past few days, I am feeling pride in my country and in my representatives.
The Yes side have been very vocal about what they want to achieve – equal rights for all, the right to marry the person you love. The No side, on the other hand, don’t seem to have a strong enough argument to counter that. Instead, they have taken the stance that allowing same-sex couples to marry will ruin the family institution. That by allowing them the marry the traditional family unit of mother, father and child will change, and this will degrade ‘traditional’ couples. They seem to have forgotten, or at the very least are ignoring the fact that it is already legal for same-sex couples and indeed lone-parents to have children through surrogacy, artificial insemination and adoption. Their only argument is that a child will not develop properly, not achieve their full potential if they are raised by anything other than a mother AND a father. The very people who are arguing that same-sex marriage will degrade and demoralise current traditional families are themselves degrading lone-parent families and adopted children. They have no consideration for children who have suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of their ‘traditional’ families. I’m not saying that a same-sex couple is going to be any better or worse at parenting than this traditional mother-father set-up, but it will not make them any less prepared. The very fact that the Yes side is so vocal and is being supported by so many public representatives, organisations and companies shows that the future is in their favour. The underlying argument of the No side is really that they do not want equal rights for all – but they just can’t come right out and say that, can they?
That being said, yes, I am in favour of a Yes vote, but you, my readers, are entitled to your own opinion. If you do not support equal rights for all, then vote no. If you do, then vote yes. If you are undecided, then please, I am begging you, get informed, talk to your friends and family, visit the Referendum Commission for unbiased information, and make up your mind by the 22nd of May. Finally, check immediately that you are registered to vote, regardless of what your opinion is. Every voice counts, please use yours.