I've been thinking about writing this post for a while and with only 3 days to go, I am finally finding the words to say to express how I feel about this referendum. To be honest, I feel quite uncomfortable with the fact I am allowed to have an opinion on this at all. What gives me the right to decide whether or not two people who love each other should have the right to be legally recognised as a family here in Ireland. Other peoples marriages have absolutely no impact on my life whatsoever, and the only person you should require permission from to get married is the person you are intending to marry.
It seems the debate over the past year has involved casting judgement on people and their relationships, judging their ability to love and raise children and deciding whether or not their love is worthy of constitutional protection. I know if it was my relationship, family and life that was being dissected in this way, I don 't think I would have been able to hold it together.
I listened to the speech given by Mary McAleese gave this morning and I was moved by her words. I cannot imagine there is anyone out there would could logically and reasonably fault any word she spoke. To me, there is no reason to vote no.
People have argued that there is no need to redefine marriage and that marriage has been this way since the start of time, but even within our own society we have redefined marriage a number of times and society has not collapsed.
- Marriage was 'traditionally' a transaction. A man taking ownership of a woman from her father.
- Up to 1973 women also had to give up their jobs when they married, giving them no independence outside the family home.
- Until 1976 women could not get a barring order against a violent husband. If your husband was beating you, your only option was to put up with it or lose your home.
- It was in the same year that women also got rights to the family home, meaning before their husband could see the home without any say from their wife.
- Marital rape was only made illegal in Ireland until 1990, again showing that in Ireland the definition of marriage implied that the wife was her husbands property, their only to do as she pleased.
- Divorce was only legalised in 1997, which meant should you find yourself in any of the above situations before then, you just had to put up with it and accept that as your life.
We changed all of these laws, and in doing so 'redefined' marriage, and it did only good. Of course there were thousands of people not affected by these laws, but did that mean they didn't need to be changed?
We are being told that this is about children, that by voting yes we will be somehow denying children the right to a mother and a father. Considering that gay people are currently raising children, and will be continuing to raise children whether a yes vote passes or not, this point is irrelevant. Even if somehow it was relevant, studies have proven time and again that there is no difference in children raised in gay families to those raised in straight family's. I also find this side of the no campaign incredibly insulting to any non traditional family out there. Single parents, adopted children, children raised by grandparents/aunts/uncles would all fall into the same category as children raised by gay parents, and so they are being portrayed as missing something vital in their lives. All a child needs is love, support, security and nourishment....and whoever can provide these things, (a couple, straigh or gay, a single parent, an extended family member or any combination of the above) is doing a great job at raising their children.
We have to also recognise that legally, marriage is not about children. For straight people there is no legal requirement to procreate when you get married. And with or without children, once you are married you are given constitutional recognition as a family. That is what we are voting for. Civil partnership does not have the same legal recognition as marriage and that is why it is so important. More than that, the children we should be thinking of is the younger generation who are being brought up and the future generations to come. Do we really want to raise children to believe that some people just do not deserve the same legal protection as others? Do we want to send a message to young gay people who may be struggling with accepting themselves that the country still believes they are less than straight people? I hope that as a country we can show that we have moved past that.
Should I have children in the future, I hope to raise them in society where equality is the standard we set. That we do not ask people to justify the life that they lead to anyone. I believe the only thing that we should ask of people is that they do not hurt others, by words or actions. Once we have achieved that, how people live their lives is nobody's business but their own.