So, as far as I can see, the central objections of the “No” camp can be narrowed down to six headings, not all of them held by every “No” campaigner, but which form a general basis of their scope for refusing to vote “Yes”: an aversion to LGBT adoption and surrogacy, objections based on religious belief, a perception of any LGBT activity as “unnatural”, an emphasis on supporting heterosexual procreation over anything else, fears of SSM leading to other things being granted the label of marriage and, finally, simple tradition. In this post and in a corresponding one next Monday, I’ll write about these in sequence.
I hate even writing about this, but blame the “No” camp, who have successfully managed to push the issue of adoption by LGBT couples and the use of surrogacy by LGBT couples into the central debate over same-sex marriage. And it’s a shame that they were able to do so, because, and please pay very close attention:
A “No” vote in this referendum will not stop LGBT adoption or LGBT surrogacy.
It will not, and anyone who says otherwise or tells you otherwise is either badly misinformed or lying to you. The facts are achingly clear. The Oireachtas, through the recently passed Children and Family Relationships bill, have already settled this matter, and there isn’t any “No” victory, of any size, that can change that. LGBT couples have already begun adopting, and will continue to do so after May 22nd. Any argument opposing SSM on this grounds is inherently fraudulent, and is nothing less than an attempt to scupper SSM by linking it to something else entirely.
If this vote passes, this is what changes:
“Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”
That gets put into our constitution. Nothing about adoption or surrogacy. LGBT unions will have the same family protections that the constitution provides for heterosexual couples currently, in concert with the legislation that has already been passed. If you hear a “No” campaigner deliver an argument based on stopping LGBT adoption or surrogacy, ask them if these things will cease in the event of a “No” vote. If they say anything other than “No, they will not”, they are misinformed or lying to you. The facts are that the legislation has passed the Dáil, and the facts are that what is being changed in the constitution is limited to that one sentence in italics above. This is incontrovertible, and beyond the scope of argument.
On the face of it, I reject this argument solely because a “Yes” vote will pertain only to civil marriage as recognised by the state and, obviously, will not be forced upon any religious institution. No Church or religious institution will be required to accept or perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, any more than a couple getting a civil marriage must recite an Our Father first. Since civil and religious marriage are separate things, religious objections should logically be discounted. But they won’t of course.
With that reality being established, that we are only talking about civil marriage, we must turn to deeper religious objections, based on the idea of homosexuality being a sin, and that no law that promotes the acceptance of homosexuality in society should be tolerated. There’s only so much that I can say to that. If you truly believe that homosexuality is a sin that needs to be challenged, I can only applaud the up-front nature of your prejudice, in comparison to a lot of other “No” campaigners, and disagree.
As a Christian, I have no issues with same-sex marriage. In the complex morass that is the Bible, with its many overt condemnations of various practices like homosexuality, it is simply put that we do not have to do everything that the book tells us, whether it is selling our daughters into slavery or being barred from approaching the alter of God because of poor eyesight.
In the end, I hold true to the practice of breaking everything down to its basest level, and in the Christian religion, as in many others, that is simply this:
Love thy neighbour.
Or, if we want to flesh that out a bit:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Everything else is so much noise really, and it would be a better world if my fellow Christians, of whatever denomination, could come to realise that. Granting LGBT people the right to get married will not affect either your religion or, it is my firm belief, your soul.
This ties into the argument of pro-creation taking precedence, but I want to mention it separately because there is a certain societal aspect of the terms “natural” and “unnatural” in this context, that could be better explained by using the terms “normal” and “abnormal”. That is, that heterosexuality, traditional marriage and all of that, is “normal”, while same-sex marriage is “abnormal”. Why? Because it’s just the way that it is I guess, because it is how society deems it.
Or, at least, how society deemed it. The way society views things change, as this very vote demonstrates. Polls indicate a huge majority of the Irish electorate favour this amendment, and in many ways the only way that it will actually fail will be because of a low turnout rather than an actual majority of citizens disapproving. So, what do we consider normal and abnormal, natural and unnatural, nowadays? Homosexuality is no longer a crime, LGBT adoption is legal and the sight of gay lovers on the straight is no longer a cause for instant insults and physical threat.
Homosexuality was seen as abnormal, as “unnatural” because society decided it was. And society can, and already has, changed its mind. A “Yes” vote will simply extend that reality to our highest source of law. I can never not see the use of the word “natural” in this debate as anything other than an insult, even if it is just a subconscious one.
Next week, I’ll round off this discussion by looking at matters of procreation favouritism, fears of incest and the unyielding behemoth that is tradition.