Same-Sex Marriage Referendum: 54 Days Out

Time keeps ticking away as we count down to the May 22nd vote. The campaign is still stuck on a sort of intermediate pace, but we can expect things to speed up soon enough.

This week’s link dump starts off with the IPSOS/MRBI polling work done by the Irish Times. Alongside a range of other queries, the collected data includes stuff related to the SSM debate. The results to the fairly simply put question of “Same-sex Marriage should be legalised” were an overwhelmingly majority in favour, 78% expressing positive responses, 61% a “strongly agree”. The latter are important, because it indicates the people who have already made up their minds. If that holds true, the final vote wouldn’t even be close (alas, I don’t think it will hold true, but is still a positive indication). Another poll by the same group shows “Yes” support down on previous tabulations, but still, within an acceptable margin of error. The “No” side will crow about stuff like this, but you can’t pay it too much heed: the referendum is never going to pass by the current projections.  A six point drop over the course of three months isn’t too bad, and if that trend continued, it wouldn’t be enough to get a “No” vote.

There’s been some confusion this week about a speech made by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in an address to the vile Iona Institute. Initially it was reported that he had called for the so-called “conscience clause” to be attached to any SSM legislation, essentially the sort of thing that allows for legal discrimination, and has become the focus of much debate in the North over the last week. But the truth seems to be that, while the Archbishop’s speech was the usual bluster and mealy mouthed appeals for contemplation, delay and what have you, it did not go so far as to encourage a work around in law that would make it legal to discriminate against the LGBT community. I have a dim view of such laws, because a line has to be drawn somewhere. I think that line should be against hate groups and speech as is already enshrined in our law, and I’m afraid LGBT communities and individuals don’t apply. I won’t offer too much comment on what Northern Ireland is going to wind up doing regards bakery’s and the like, but the introduction of such laws here would be disgusting.

For an example of the kind of warped thinking that “conscience clauses” can engender, look no further than this exchange linked on Twitter, between the ever brilliant Matt Cooper and “No” campaigner Keith Mills. Mills gets led down the garden path on where his thinking can lead. It’s sad that the example of gender discrimination seems to have more impact on people than LGBT discrimination, and it’s also sad that I’m not the least bit surprised that, rather than back down, Mills is happy to forge on ahead and declare that he’d be perfectly happy to tolerate discrimination against women too. Even more bizarre is that Mills himself is homosexual.

A few pieces from the Indo serve to make the point about the nature of the upcoming fight. Amnesty has come out in full support of the amendment, demonstrating the common sense of the proposal. But still, FG’ers are warning about the battle ahead, and it’s not much of a shock to read that some government TD’s in rural areas are not canvassing for the amendment, fearful that more conservative and elderly voters will be driven away by such actions. That the opposition they could run to are also supporting the amendment means nothing of course, because fearful conservatives are fearful conservatives. Solace can be found though: the people these TD’s don’t want to approach are probably never going to be voting “Yes” anyway.

But with elements of FG running scared and Labour not exactly setting the world on fire with their opening salvos, much of the “Yes” fight may fall on the shoulders of that very opposition. But you can’t really rely on them either. None of them want a government victory on a referendum within 12 months of an election and, in fairness to them, years from now the cross-party support for SSM will be a footnote when discussing the FG/Lab [passing of the vote. But you still hope that Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and the AAA/Ind crowd might kindly take the finger out. Don’t expect much from FF though. They’ll be all about the bye-election being held the same day, with some of their parliamentary party already jumping ship over issues near and dear to SSM. Admittedly not very important people, but it is an indication of how things might go.

In news relate4d to the media coverage of the debate, the BAI have had some words to say on the issue of broadcasters who favour one position or the other. The obsessive need for balance, in the state broadcaster particularly, has been millstone around the neck of many progressive movements over the last few years, where LGBT groups, women’s groups and children’s groups, despite overwhelming popular support, have still had to cede equal time with bigots, bad logic and fear mongering. The BAI would be better served determining how useful it is to the debate to allow blatant misinformation, discrimination and panic on the airwaves. This isn’t an election.

Over on Her, a riveting personal testament is this week’s attempt at bringing a more emotive and singular aspect to the debate. I like linking to these pieces because I believe that it is important to remind everyone that these are the lives of people we are talking about, not some hypothetical abstract thought. People are hurting, people are being discriminated against, people are being told who they can and cannot marry and whether they can r cannot be trusted with children. If the above man had come out just a few decades ago, his life would have been over: aside from the bigoted hatred of homosexuals, his chosen profession would have had him labelled as a paedophile in waiting. That’s the kind of historical shame we are fighting against, and are trying to banish. David Mooney is also dead right to point out the hypocrisy of Ireland’s church, which is happy to provide wedding services for people who barely attend Mass, but turn actual Christian LGBT couples away, as a sinful aberration of nature.

A quick round-up of other things happening in the world of SSM debate. Fergus Finlay, after getting past discussion of Ireland’s miraculous Six Nations win, has some thoughts on Diarmuid Martin’s precise wording so far in the debate. In Carlow, a LGBT choir is releasing a single to call for a “Yes” vote. The Irish Association of Catholic Priests is taking a neutral stance on the upcoming vote (is there too much of a gap between Church leadership and the ordinary priest?). And the Irish Times letter page has the usual decent back and forth over the vote.

Still plenty of time to register to vote, to change your constituency or to sign up for postal voting.

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