The minds of the Irish people have become inflamed by fiery debate on the issue of Marriage Equality. In two weeks, our country takes to the polls to vote on Marriage Equality, and should it pass, could make not only Irish history, but world history, by being the first country to legally enact it by popular vote.
It has a lot of people talking, including these guys:
To friends in Ireland. Vote YES on 22 May and make your country first ever to legalise marriage equality by popular vote. #VoteWithUs— Ian McKellen (@IanMcKellen) May 1, 2015
Despite efforts from the No side, attempting to muddle the debate with all sorts of irrelevant digressions, misinformation, and inaccuracies, the Yes side are maintaining a respectable, passionate, and courageous debate. And yes, I'm biased. Real equality matters.
All sorts of people are coming out to gallantly reveal their own personal experience. People that have previously not done so for fear of backlash from the indecencies of stigma and prejudice. Such as this 60 year old gentleman, whom wrote anonymously and poignantly to a national Irish Newspaper declaring his hopes for future generations.
There are even people writing up letters as of their own initiative, simply to influence their neighbours:
As for myself, dear reader, I am part of quite a remarkable team of campaigners based in the South-West of Dublin. This group of people was assembled by the resilient and dexterous Senator Katherine Zappone and Dr. Anne Louise Gilligan. Ms. Zappone is the first woman to be open about her same-sex preference elected to the Irish Parliament, and also is a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission. Ms. Gilligan, is a reputable lecturer, academic, and former chair of the Irish National Welfare Board. Alongside these ladies, myself and others, are taking to the streets as well as social media to fight for the rights of a marginalised minority. To change minds, and indeed, hearts. My original introduction to the world of politics, might I note, was a result of the imperishably admirable Senator David Norris and his work in human rights, which inspired me to activate myself in a similar fashion. Mr. Norris has been a member of the Senate since 1987. A reputation for achieving, with a few other valiant people, the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland. This took place in 1993, after he took on the Irish State in the European Court of Human Rights, and won his case for the removal of criminality connected to sexual preference. It made news the world over.
One can, should they be interested, view him debate Oskana Federova on Russia TV. It really is quality entertainment, if I do say so myself, ladies and gentlemen:
Also, to invoke a sense of what our team does, or indeed, what it looks like. You can watch this brief video made by team leader, Darragh Genocky:
Now, for the argument. There has been much coverage regarding the No campaign's inclusion for a concern regarding the welfare of children. This is most hideously misleading, as the referendum proposal, which is seventeen words, appears as the following, "Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex."
Ultimately, it is fair to say, I believe, that there is an implicit negative discrimination against people with a same-sex preference, and their adoption of children. Although academic studies in this area have contradicted this contention as unsupportable, by presenting empirical evidence. Benjamin Siegel, a School of Medicine professor of paediatrics, co-authored a report, published by the American Academy of Paediatrics, when the US Supreme Court took up the issue of gay marriage. Arguing that three decades of research concur that children of same-sex parents have, obviously, not only the capacity to raise children lovingly, but also the capability to do so.
Even children's rights groups have come out in support of a Yes Vote. BeLonG To YES, the largest coalition of children's and youth organisations supporting a yes vote in the referendum, include the ISPCC, Barnardos, Foróige, Youth Work Ireland, the Migrant Rights Centre, Headstrong, Yes Equality, the Children's Rights Alliance, Pavee Point, EPIC and the National Youth Council of Ireland, as well as BeLonG To the national organisation for LGBT young people. The Irish Police force, An Garda Síochána, have also advocated voting Yes on May 22nd. We now have not only a bizarre scenario, but an embarrassing one, in which the No campaign are arguing for the protection of children, even though the most respectable children's rights organisation's the country over have blatantly contradicted.
Here is a funny video made by Irish Comedic actress Karen Healy, amongst others at Pondering Media, that addresses some of these concerns through satire:
The real argument here, to my mind, is the extension of equality to a stigmatised group of people. The sexual preference of anybody in no way defines them as a person, or inhibits their capability to be loving and diligent parents. Whatever preference a person has sexually has no social or cosmic significance. It does, however, have a cultural one. But then, the beautiful thing about culture is that it is man-made, and can be changed. This irrational stigma is a relationship of devaluation whereby a group of people are disqualified from full social acceptance, simply for something as trivial as their sexual preference.
The origins of this stigma come from stereotypes and perceptions that are widespread, and that are false. Stigmatization is an efficient process of social control. To have a ruling class one must have taboos and prohibitions. Sex is convenient because almost all of us do it. To criminalize or deprive a person of equal rights in a society is hardly civilised and certainly contemptuous. This inherited ignorance, learned at a young age, composes of over-generalisation, prejudice, and a refusal to acknowledge the facts of life, it also violates grossly all rational thought. It reinforces the idea of "them" and "us". It is as though one group derives its identity from the fact of its opposition to the other. Those ostracised and stigmatised are necessary for the social and emotional security of the "in-group". Neuro-science and sociological studies imply that we are, or try to be, what our society wants us to be. But society can change, and has done. This is what we are doing, we are trying to include everyone by creating a new more inclusive model for the ritual recognition of human love.
As the late James Baldwin wrote in his powerful and undeceived essay, "Stranger in the Village":
"People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster."
Here we are, ladies and gentleman, a nation, being asked to change our country this very summer. This is an opportunity for Ireland to be on the right side of History. To extend Democracy. Encourage Civilisation. Acknowledge the facts of human nature. To cherish all the children under the constitution equally. Let us, as the people of Ireland, at least do that. Vote Yes.