Same-Sex Marriage Referendum: 75 Days Out

In lieu of having anything more solid to talk about this week, I thought instead that I would put together a small link dump of the week’s news and op-eds on the issue, that come from a variety of sources.

First up, Billy Keane in the Indo writes about the dangers of “Yes” complacency, and the source of some likely trouble for that side in the upcoming vote. The problem is, as I talked about last week, a significant proportion of people who may have sympathy for the “Yes” side, and may even claim they will vote “Yes” today, but will end up either voting “No” or staying away come the actual poll, because of reservations they have with SSM, whatever they are. These people need convincing, and the kind of anecdotal stories that Keane talks about in this article, from homophobia-inspired violence to the reality of family members seeking the right to raise children, might be more effective than dry reiterating of surveys and studies.

That’s not to dismiss cold hard fact entirely. The Psychological Society of Ireland have helpfully come out and stated clearly that the tide of functioning surveys, studies and other forays into the topic are firmly on the “Yes” side, and have found no clear evidence that sexual orientation will definitively inform on the quality of a parent. Moreover, they warn against the peddling of outdated or skewed data or, even worse, the misuse of data that actually makes the opposite point. We’ll be seeing a lot of that.

American outlet Newsweek is reporting on some of the crazier heads taking part in this debate, even as more local news sites have tended to dismiss them as the crazies that they are. Referendums do tend to attract the nutjob fringe, and it goes doubly so for an issue that easily sucks in religious fundamentalists. Expect more and more of this kind of irrational panic-mongering dressed up as advocacy. And despite what David Quinn is quoted as saying in this piece, you can bet any amount of money that he’ll be happy about anything that will get people to vote “No”.

Speaking of Mr Iona, and God knows I am loath to grant him the attention his insidious ramblings want, but I did happen across this piece from Dil Wickremasinghe. Having recently become pregnant via the services of a fertility clinic, she had the misfortune to have to witness some rather tactless exchanges about her pregnancy between some of the worst members of Twitter’s Irish “No” contingent, chief among them Mr Quinn and Maria Laoise. Quinn’s reaction to the news of Wickremasinghe’s pregnancy is a curt “Who’s the father?”. This kind of sums up the guy really. Upon hearing such news from anyone else, like a heterosexual women, or from a couple who have adopted, it would be considered the height of rudeness and poor social graces to offer a demanding question as personal and intimate as “Who’s the father?”. And it’s even more astonishing (or, at least it would be, if it were anyone else but this man) considering Quinn is, himself, an adoptive parent. But this is one of the most visual faces of the “No” crowd, who delight in being as nasty as possible. It continues in the comments of the above, where one of the early responders is Evert Bopp, another of those Twitter users whose timeline is filled with bigotry and discrimination masked in religious overtones and conservative faux-reasonableness. In an attempt to defend Quinn, Bopp helpfully asks “Surely there is a (biological) father? Or are we witnessing a case of immaculate conception?” thus missing the point by a margin so wide that search and rescue teams are presumably still seeking his original statement. The usual suspects are continuing to harass Wickremashinghe on Twitter.

Over on The Journal, Larry Donnelly explains his pro-SSM viewpoint and how it meshes with his Catholicism. He points out the reality that SSM did not cause the sky to fall in wherever it has previously been made law in the United States, and that his own marriage helped to inform him on the emotional realities such a union contains, and how this should not be denied to others on the basis of sexuality. Finally, he makes the reasonable assertion that, while the Catholic Church can continue to not recognise SSM as valid, and cannot be forced in to performing services on the basis of SSM, the state, as a secular entity (or, at least, it should be) must act on the basis of equality for all.

Over on the Irish Times again, an opinion piece from Patrick Treacy makes the claim that a rejection of the SSM vote “would lead to a constitutional recognition of same-sex unions which is different from marriage but, most importantly, it would accurately express the nature of these relationships in a caring and respectful way.” Uh huh. It’s the standard “separate but equal” blather that a lot of the “No” side go on about, acting as if applying the word marriage to civil partnerships is an unnecessary thing, ignoring the legal realities of the difference. He proposes a “new and imaginative course” which sounds pretty much like what currently exists. He peddles a line of thinking that a “No” vote might lead to a third option – the same kind of whatabouttery that duped so many into rejecting Seanad abolition. Mr Treacy goes on to essentially dismiss the core democratic value of majority rule, claiming that “a huge number” of his “fellow citizens” will “never accept” SSM. Well, you know, too bad. They’ll get over it. I could easily counter by saying that a huge number of my fellow citizens cannot accept things as they are. There’s the usual “Man + Woman = best, because nature” nonsense that was tiresome years ago, and is expressed in deliberately vague terms here – like it always is, because the argument based upon this assertion has little legs. He also claims that the vote is going ahead without enough time in the political system.

And on that note, I link to a letter from to same publication, from Dr Brian Tobin. He was of many legal minds called into to discuss and offer advice about amendments to the Children and Family Relationships Bill last year, in April. That piece of legislation, which has become attached in the popular conciousness to the SSM referendum, has been in consideration for a long time, as has the SSM voting legislation itself. Nothing here is being done lightly, or without the requisite amount of time to study all of the possible legal ramifications. But of course, members of the “No” side, like Mr Treacy, know this very well. The call for reflection, for more time to consider the issue, for everyone to “take a step back”, is a pathetic and cowardly effort to gag the debate and try and get those in power to kick the can, knowing full well that such an action only benefits one side of this issue. The wrong side. No more waiting, reflection, consideration or pulling back. This issue is being decided this May, and we cannot allow the Patrick Treacy’s of this world the chance to keep Ireland stuck at its present position.

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