Same-Sex Marriage Referendum: 19 Days Out

Another week, another link dump. The truth of the matter is that, by this stage, both sides of this debate have basically had their say, laid out their arguments, solidified their position, and not just repeat themselves a lot, in a contest to determine who can garner the most attention. It’s a tiresome period really, one that will go into overdrive in the last few days, which remain a frustrating two and a half weeks away. I say frustrating because a large part of me wants it all to be over: for the decision to be made, for my commute to work to no longer be marred by a “God Says No” placard and for SSM to become a reality. But wait I must, but I’ll try and make good use of the time.

So, what good news has occurred over the last week or so? In no particular order:

Lots of celebrity endorsements have been rolling in, of varying kinds. There goes Mrs Brown, here’s Dustin and Bosco, here’s a neat little short story from Roddy Doyle, Aidan Gillian, Westlife, Andrew Scott, it goes on and on. The world of celebrity was always going to be a world of “Yes”, because they just tend to be overarchingly liberal in outlook, for whatever reason. Whether it will have a sufficient impact is another thing, but I’ll never begrudge anyone the use of a platform to spread a “Yes” message.

And they aren’t the only ones of course. It’s easy for the “No” side to feel overwhelmed and defensive I suppose, as the wealth of political parties, businesses, trade unions, personalities, charities and state bodies line up against them. They tend to cry “elite”, “groupthink”, “inappropriate” whatever. But it is simply evidence of the huge mass of popular support against their position. If Ireland had a compulsory voting model on the lines of Australia, as I have partially advocated for before, this vote would already be done. I doubt the “No” campaign would even be trying that hard. But that isn’t the case, and a low turnout will still scupper this vote. But that overwhelming tide is very much evident, it just has to get turned into votes.

I don’t know if this really counts as “good” news, but I did find some wry amusement from this story of a bounty being placed on those “No” posters by an attention grabbing hotel. Not so much for the story, it’s pretty stupid really, but for Keith Mills’ desperate whining for the “Yes” side to say something. Maybe I’d have more sympathy if the “No” posters weren’t such a blatant piece of electoral hoodwinking.

Labour, slow out the gates to a surprising degree, have finally started getting involved more, with their director of elections giving a clear, unmistakable call for a “Yes”, backed up by a cogent argument about its actual merits, and the misinformation being peddled by the other side. Joan Burton too, has actually decided to come out and say something on the matter. Will Labour now actually start walking the walk, weeks after other factions in the fight have started doing so? God, I really hope so, I’ve lost enough respect for that party as it is.

And the other parties are also making a bit more of an effort. Aside from getting their posters up (finally, though I don’t really like the colour) Fine Gael have Leo Varadker making an impassioned and personal plea for a “Yes” vote, and the odd Fianna Failer is even writing up an op-ed and going after an under-targeted demographic and talking about personal experiences. Labour is even offering to sit down and debate the matter with the opposition, though I’m not sure how wise that is.

In many ways, I feel like it would be better to back off and let others do the talking, if only to avoid the stench of government and Fianna Fail unpopularity (adding the unwillingness of Sinn Fein and the AA to campaign properly). Take this for example, between Noel Whelan and Breda O’Brien. The stated arguments on that page sum up a lot: O’Brien can only complain about the apparent consensus against her (will she still complain if it’s a “Yes” landslide?) and Whelan is left to bemoan the fearmongering going on. That’s the established dynamic here, and it makes debates hard to watch, but at least people like Whelan can hold their own. He’s also quite coherent in his writing, such as in this piece, about the critical difference between civil partnerships and actual marriage. It’s truly irritating to hear arguments that consist of “They already have CP”, when the legal and financial contrasts are obvious and striking.

Some nice testimonials, emphasising the personal nature of the debate and the misdirection being practised by the “No” side, are also around for your reading pleasure. The chance to get married for some lovers might not seem like much, but in circumstances such as these it means a hell of a lot. Who can read words like that and come out with any other impression than of a loving couple seeking to stand on the same pedestal as others?  In the Irish Times, a worthwhile look at the reality of surrogacy, which is used by far more heterosexual couples than LGBT ones, is a decent read if you are one of those who have decided this matters to the SSM question. And the Indo letters page has some great offerings this week, from people enunciating the “Yes” viewpoint.

Before I move on, I’ll link to this BBC piece. It’s just a nothing recapping of the vote from an outsider perspective, but I really liked its final words, which I think speaks greatly to the struggle being fought here:

Pat Carey will spend the next few weeks trying to galvanise voters, in the hope that he can one day marry his partner.

“A woman said to me the other night, ‘Pat will you marry me?’. She was highlighting that the two of us could get married and nobody would blink an eye.

“But if two gay people want to get married they have to consult 4.1 million people.”


So, what has the “No” side been up to? Or, rather, what bad news has there been?

Well, there’s this depressing statistic for one, that so many younger voters are not registered and, thus, are voiceless just when you really need them to pipe up. Let’s add in some other depressing figures, like the huge proportion of young “Yes” supporters who just won’t vote even if registered.

These people are simply risible. We are all bound top know people like this, who will support a “Yes” and then do nothing, not even the bare minimum, to bring its victory into being, to make a mockery out of the huge majority. Will it sink the “Yes” campaign? You just can’t be sure, and no one will be sure until the votes are counted.

Maybe just get out there and vote guys. If you went to the trouble of registering, why not use the right? And for this cause of all causes.

Just as I was giving Fianna Fail some scant praise, I have to be reminded of the other side of the party, that is, the large amount of people for whom unity of message goes out the window, and a “Yes” preference is not on the cards. Bizarre really, that Fianna Fail are showing a less united front on this issue than Fine Gael. Add in the hangers on, like Senator Jim Walsh and his unsubstantiated, fearmongering prejudices turned into sound bytes, and you have an idea of where the party finds itself.

This piece is going to be the last one that I link to on the topic, which is this: Claims that a lot of the Irish electorate will vote “No” but just don’t want to say so, the “silent No”. I’m sick of this line of thinking being reworded and presented as a new op-ed every week, so there it is. Sure, there will be more “No” voters than the polls suggest. Well done, you’ve cracked the code. Just a few weeks/months/years late.

How about DoNOgal? Ireland’s most contrary county is bound to offer, again, a negative response to a referendum, and Newstalk had a gander at why. If you can stand the reporters over-defensiveness at accusations of cherry-picking interview candidates, it’s worth a read.

In a story more on the disturbing/funny/funnily disturbing side, check out the “debate” had here, which rapidly turned into a moronic roundabout on the description of Irish sex acts. You can sort of see what the “No” guy was going for here, but that doesn’t really make it any less pathetic and sad.

Mothers And Fathers Matter brought out a typical kind of ad this week, which I will not link to. Instead, I’ll link to this scathing parody of it, which I found immensely entertaining.  Did I mention that the same group has been misquoting reports to suit their own agenda? Shocker.

That ad, full of “No” misinformation and obfuscation, brings me to the topic of the good “No” voter, by which I mean the “No” voter who insists that they are not a homophobe or a bigot, but just have serious reservations etc, etc. “I have no problem with gay people, but…” you know. The “No” campaign loves to claim that it is made up exclusively of these people, and to paint a picture of conscientious “No” voters being assaulted for expressing their opinion.

Here’s the thing.

Every other day walking to and from work, I have to pass a bearded man outside of Trinity College holding the aforementioned sign saying “God Says No” and generally shouting manically about various religiously themed reasons to reject the upcoming vote. He’s clearly a bit unhinged, and people give him a wide berth.

I have more respect for that guy than I do for anyone who expresses anything like “I have no problem with gay people, but…”.

I’m serious. At least he’s out there wearing it on his sleeve. The others, that very Irish type of “Ah sure, don’t they have enough as it is?” voter hides the reality. They don’t want to acknowledge the word “discrimination”, unless it applies to themselves of course. They don’t want to think about having more rights than others, or how they are giving their assent to a system that defines a sexual orientation as worthy of more in certain contexts.

No, they don’t have a problem with gay people. They just, you know, don’t want them to be allowed to get married. Because of children. Or adoption. Or surrogacy. Or religious feeling. Or whatever. And I think that it is all just smokescreen for a very deeply held conviction, that homosexual people have less worth than heterosexual, and that they can’t be trusted with children. Why? I don’t know. Because they’re different? Icky? Not “normal”?

Spare me the “I don’t have problem with gay people” stuff, please. Of course you do. Otherwise you wouldn’t be denying them the right to get married, you wouldn’t be deluding yourself that surrogacy is a factor in this vote, you wouldn’t be claiming, against all reasons of logic and reality, that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to adopt and raise children in a loving home.

I’m getting worked up here, but I feel like I have to say it. It’s beyond doubt that surrogacy and adoption issues are not at play here. It’s beyond doubt that marriage carries with it more rights and privileges than civil partnership. It’s beyond doubt that being homosexual is not a choice people make. So, if you put all of that aside, why do you really want to vote “No”? If you don’t have a problem with gay people after all of that, what is your problem then?

Maybe you’re not consciously a bigot or a homophobe, but you sure are perpetrating discrimination, so what’s the difference? That you’re nice about it? So what? I’m sure plenty of nice people explained to Rosa Parks that she didn’t need to sit in the front of the bus.

Too much of a stretch? Not really. LGBT people don’t need SSM like black people in 1960’s America should have been happy being “separate, but equal”. And this is beyond marriage. This is about LGBT rights, and what kind of society we really want: one that is equal, inclusive and tolerant, or one that is lopsided, cliquey and prejudiced.

As for claims of intimidation and harassment, I would ask you to consider the truth that the average member of Ireland’s LGBT community has suffered far more pain in their life, internal and external, than you have, and that to receive what you perceive as a hurtful comment on Twitter, or to feel like you are not free to discuss “No” beliefs in the workplace, isn’t really in the same league (FYI: Don’t talk about this stuff in the workplace, “Yes” or “No”, it’s a no brainer).

If you really don’t have a problem with gay people, then there is only one side of this debate you should be on. And I would implore you, to please consider that. The overriding message I’m being bombarded with is that I should be playing softball as part of the “Yes” campaign and pretending that “I have no problem with gay people but…” is a position I should have time for. But I have my limits.

By the time this goes out, the moment for registering to vote will have passed, unless you started the process much earlier in the week. So no point in pleading for that any more. I simply advise the people who have chosen not to register to at least campaign and encourage for a “Yes” vote, but also to refrain from too much celebrating if the vote passes.

For everyone else, those registered and in the right constituency, please make the commitment, now, to go out and vote for equality on May 22nd.

Tomorrow, I’ll start discussing the “No” objections in more detail.

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