Same-Sex Marriage Referendum: 26 Days Out

I’m changing things up today. I decided I haven’t done enough to illustrate the benefits of a “Yes” vote, or to popularise the people behind that “Yes” vote. So, the next section of this post is dedicated solely to good news stories surrounding the referendum or testimonials on behalf of the “Yes” side.

First, its very new with no raw data available yet, but the latest polls are in and the main numbers are very good. The “Yes” side has retained support in the 70’s region with the all important likely voters, when I fully expected that it would be down to the 60’s. That’s basically no loss of support in over a month, which is fantastic, and any loss in the general poll, where “Yes” stands at 68 and “No” at 22 is essentially MOE territory. No room for complacency at all, but it is very, very encouraging, despite how some tight contest obsessed media sources will try and swing it.

In the Irish Times, an anonymous contributor writes about the break-up of her marriage when her husband came to the realisation that he was gay. It could easily be a bitter denunciation, but instead has a nice uplifting quality: a recognition that one’s own personal nature cannot be kept hidden, and attempting to do so will only lead to more hurt down the road. A “Yes” vote will help to make clear that no one needs to hide who they are in modern Ireland they way this woman’s husband did.

In the Indo, Brendan O’Connor has a nice piece on the importance of Mary McAleese’s thoughts last week, in their ability to reach out that vast section of the country: “Middle Ireland”. There have been times during this campaign when I have seen an unexpected softening of the usual solid conservative position this section of society generally takes, and maybe that could make all the difference. Speaking of which, here is McAleese’s gay son talking about his life, decision to come out and all other things, an interview well worth reading.

In the Indo too, celebrated Irish author Colm Toibin talks about his desire to be able to marry the person he loves in his own country. Another pertinent reminder that this is beyond hypothetical: we are talking about real people, real couples, who are not being treated equally by the state. And that’s wrong. How can the sort of relationship that Toibin describes be considered a detriment to society?

Numerous unions and other such organisations have been coming out and calling for a “Yes” vote, and one of them is the Garda Union. Such a statement is bound to raise the hackles of some, who think that no portion of the Guards should be saying such statements (more on that later). But the Union isn’t the force, and can say whatever the hell it wants, free from the chains of political neutrality. And the Garda is an important one: the wing of law enforcement in this country was once at the forefront of criminalising homosexuality. The support for a “Yes” from these institutions is overwhelming, and to be welcomes.

Up and down the country, people are becoming more and more involved, even in places you wouldn’t expect, like the mostly rural Tipperary. Take in the words of a gay man, tired of not feeling like he is one the same level as other people. There are “Yes” voters in parts of Ireland you might not expect, and they will be very important. And he’s not only one, with the movement in Westmeath also making headlines.

The world of Irish celebrity was always going to be “Yes” heavy – it tends to be all around the world really – and Hozier has come up with a nice message to call for a “Yes” vote. Celebrity endorsements can be hit and miss, but I think that this is a good one.

There have been moments when I have been worried about the state of the “Yes” campaign, when I saw too much dominance by the “No” voices in certain arenas (the comments section of the next link discuss some pertinent examples, with Una Mullaly being one of the last people I would choose to have debate on behalf of “Yes”). But over at CLR, a nice write up has been made that really illustrates the point about what strides Yes Equality have actually been able to make, having started only a short time ago from a very base point. Now they are a cross-national movement hosting a number of events and driving numerous initiatives (like this one: God bless the grannies). It’s a strong campaign, and it is making waves.

And the proof is in the pudding: check out Yes Equality’s fundraising drive and its crazy success. Having long surpassed the desired total, here’s hoping that Yes Equality will spend the surplus of funds wisely. The overall total to be spent on the referendum is sizable.

And lastly, the Irish Times has a nice op-ed in support of “Yes”, in opposition to Heather Barwick. I’ve talked about her, and her weirdly skewed view on her father’s role or lack of it in her childhood, before (it amounts to “SSM is bad because my Dad walked out on my lesbian mother and I”), and Finn Murray piece is the perfect tonic, to describe a loving union between two people, who raised a loving adult.


Alright, so what have the “No” side been up to then?

The Garda were in the news this week in relation to the campaign, and not in a good way. While the shrieking of conspiracy and confederation from Keith “I’m gay which makes my “No” feelings more important apparently” Mills is a bit much, I tend to agree generally. The Garda shouldn’t be photographed in such a manner, even if it was with the best, non-political, intentions. It’s inappropriate. Leave it to the Union, or when you are out of uniform. Of course, the whole story made me realise how insidious the reality of voter registration is in this country: only one side of the debate is actually encouraging people to register to vote, and the other is completely silent on the issue. You know what that says to me? That one side knows it’s in a minority, and what’s to make sure that as low a turn-out as possible swings it around.

So, one of the big “No” things this week was this Breda O’Brien piece. She did get very selectively quoted in a way, but I don’t really care about her opinions on homosexual chastity or whatever, that’s the same kind of drivel I try and actively ignore whenever I hear it. More interesting to me are her thoughts on sex without procreation as a goal, which she seems to have no problem with (within marriage). I find that hard to reconcile with other statements: if sex for pleasure’s sake is not such a bad thing, then why would homosexual sex within marriage be something to consider immoral?

And I find myself struggling to engender sympathy for talk of online harassment and such. O’Brien is part of an institution and a system that actively makes life worse for LGBT people, and does so under a cover of religious platitudes and faux-reasonableness. I can guarantee you the average member of the LGBT community has had it worse during their lifetime.

Professional Indo troll Ian O’Doherty has a piece here that I link to address a general issue that I’ve seen pop up here, there and everywhere: criticism of the “Yes” campaign from a position of not liking being “told” how to vote, and perceptions of belligerence and aggression. I’ve talked about this before, and I’m still not buying it. I’ve yet to see anyone “tell” people how to vote, in a manner synonymous with an order. I’m certainly seen encouraging, pleading, cajoling, calling and everything else that always happens during a referendum campaign. And I’ve seen it from both sides. And the only time I’ve seen abuse slung is when something truly bigoted or offensive was said in the first place. I think was this is, aside from an obvious attempt to stir the pot from some, is a dislike of a majority. It isn’t that people are being “told” how to vote, as if it was some sort of crime to campaign on one side or the other. It’s that the scale of the “Yes” movement, especially on social media, is massive, and that just annoys some people as a matter of course. I get impatient with stuff like this, because it’s only a hop, skip and jump away from “I couldn’t be bothered to vote” excuse making.

Here’s something unique: a “No” op-ed that actually manages to be thought provoking, in a non-stupid way. I disagree with many points of course, but there is a civility to the discussion there that has often been lacking from the “No” camp. In the end, I feel like the discussion on other “non-traditional” unions, such as polygamous relationships, are out of the remit for this current debate, not to say that they will be forever. If this campaign is trying to prove anything, it’s that what we consider valid as a “marriage” is changing throughout history. And I also disagree with the attempt to belittle the “Yes” argument by claiming that carer/patient relationships might have enough love in them to be defined as a “marriage”. If you want to talk about increasing the legal rights, and financial remuneration to carers, OK, but it’s facetious to place it on the same level as a romantic, sexual relationship between two non-relatives.

But oh, the posters. A lot has been written about the “No” posters this week, and it feels almost pointless to rehash it all, but I will be brief. They are a blatant and manipulative attempt to frame the debate in a manner that makes it easier for “No” to win, undertaken by presenting a falsehood to the Irish public. It has been said over and over again that issues of surrogacy and adoption will not be altered one way or the other by this vote, and it needs to be said more. That members of the “No” side would willing perpetrate this misinformation – and they know that it is misinformation, damaging misinformation – says everything you need to know about them. So bad is the attempted scaremongering or hoodwinking, that the Referendum Commission, bowled over by complaints, is considering the risky territory of wading in with clarifications, while other organisations do the same.  The posters are awful, but at least show up this aspect of the “No” side for what they are: ask yourself why surrogacy and parenthood are the talking point here. Ask yourself what opinions and prejudices the people who made these posters are trying to maintain as the status quo, even as they hide them from probing eyes. And, with any justice, those posters will lose as many votes as they gain.

Still time to register to vote, or to change constituency. But not much more.

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