So, here we are. Five days away from the vote, and no one certain about how things are going to proceed. Regardless of what anyone says, it was always going to be this way. At time of writing, I have seen only one of apparently several polls to be released over the next few days, this one from the Irish Times. The spin is going in both directions with that one, with a headline that indicates the result is all but decided, but some reporting, there and on social media that indicates otherwise. You’ll see a lot of people say “Yes lead cut to 58%!” sort stuff, that neglects to mention this is when the Don’t Know/Undecided crowd are removed, not to mention the non-voters. Oh, and that the “No” vote is reduced also under the same criteria. The numbers are very encouraging, and indicate that decent turnout will be all that is required in a few days time. More polls to come of course, and if I were a betting man, I would say that generally the “Yes” side will have slipped to mid-60’s in those, with the “Likely Voters” number to be a bit higher. While the media and the “No” side will make this out to be a case of the sky falling for the “Yes” side, any “Yes” campaigner or supporter with half a brain predicted the fluctuation months ago.
I’m still firmly of the belief that most people have made up their minds on this issue, and that the battle is one of getting the vote out. And I’m still very positive about that possibility. The amount of repeated news points, inane media babble and new posters upon new posters, has resulted in a crush of stuff to do with the referendum, as both sides make last ditch efforts to force the issue. The TV debates, which I’ve been happy to avoid, have followed the depressingly predictable course, of the “No” side saying the most outrageous, despicable things about LGBT people, stealing attention and the spotlight through talk of surrogacy and adoption, while our state broadcaster gladly allowed them the leeway to do so. The “Yes” debaters, stuck between facing accusations of being intolerant if they were too loud in response, or too timid if they didn’t challenge at all, were left looking mealy-mouthed and wishy-washy. Still one debate left, but it’s really all about perception, and it’s galling that the “Yes” side has been shunted into this position of having to talk about immaterial matters while the “No” side waits to declare they are being silenced if the homophobia is commented upon. My suggestion is to follow me, and switch off.
So, with less than a week to go, what’s been happening around the internet?
In the Irish Times, Derek Byrne is one of those rare things: a committed “No” voter who changed his mind on the subject, and is now campaigning for a “Yes” vote. His reasoning is somewhat unique; a “realpolitik” response based more on the greater good of the entire LGBT community than the specific issue of SSM. His is a good perspective: that it is abhorrent that we, as an electorate, are even getting to vote on the rights and lifestyle of such a significant minority. That minority deserves the right to express their love for others just like everybody else, and even “No” voters should be able to recognise that longing.
Similar territory is covered by Collette Browne in the Indo. Her piece made me consider how I would react to the situation of having my sexual orientation held to be lower in law, how I would feel about the necessity of having to go door-to-door and ask people to allow me to marry the person I loved, and having to potentially face verbal or physical abuse in the process. I’d feel awful, demeaned and discriminated against. And that’s why a “Yes” vote is so, so important.
Surprise, surprise: Breda O’Brien won’t make good on a previous willingness to debate “Panti Bliss” on SSM, blaming a sudden (and very convenient) illness. Hope you feel better soon. More risible is the stuttering claim that now is not the time for a debate on the topic…a week before the vote. Uh huh. Me thinks the more prominent “No” campaigners are running scared of having to share the stage with somebody as dynamic and in your face as Panti, much preferring the more easily handled likes of Una Mullaly. There’s a word for that, and it’s “cowardly”. I questioned whether Panti’s involvement in the campaign would be a positive or negative before, but now I think I regret that the performer hasn’t been able to get as much screen time as others.
Over the last week, we’ve had two key – or, at least, they should be – interventions, that I don’t feel have been given near enough attention. The first was by Geoffrey Shannon, the Chairperson of the Adoption Authority of Ireland. Speaking on that aforementioned debate, he was clear and unequivocal: the adoption process will not be affected, at all, by the result of this referendum. This is the authority on the subject, speaking the truth, and it should be shouted from the heavens. If RTE had any balls at all, they would refuse to let questions of adoption or surrogacy even be discussed, because they have been incontrovertibly proven to not be an element at play here.
Joining him is Justice Kevin Cross of the Referendum Commission. It’s almost sad the way this has come about, but it’s practically inevitable that “RefCom” has had to make additional statements. I feel sympathy: it must be hard to have to see one side of the debate tell such bald faced untruths about what’s going on. And so Mr Cross permitted himself to be the subject of a blunt Q&A conducted by the Irish Times, wherein he answered questions on the referendum in as simple and factual a matter as he could. The results are unsurprising for “Yes” campaigners. A few excerpts:
If the referendum is passed next week, what will happen?
If the referendum is passed next week, two people of the same-sex would be entitled to marry just the same as two people of the opposite sex can marry now. They will have the same constitutional status as married persons of the opposite sex.
And if it’s a No?
If it’s a No, the present situation will continue without change.
If the referendum is passed, will there be any change in the status of opposite-sex marriages?
Will there be any change in the status of marriage itself?
This question arises from a point made by the No side. Would close relatives of the same sex be allowed to marry? In other words, would the criteria be any different for same-sex marriage compared to opposite-sex marriage?
No. The proposal is that marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex. The important words there are “in accordance with law”.
There are prohibited degrees of relationships, as they are legally defined, in relation to close relatives. They apply to married persons. They apply at the moment to civil partners as well. Clearly, a same-sex married couple would be in precisely the same position as an opposite-sex married couple.
Does this referendum have anything to do with adoption or surrogacy?
This referendum is about marriage – who may marry, who may not marry. If it passed, it would have the effect that I have described. Surrogacy is not regulated by the Constitution at all. There is no proposal that it shall be regulated by the Constitution. Surrogacy at the moment is not regulated by law. It is intended to regulate it by law. That regulation will apply irrespective of whether the referendum is passed or not.
Adoption is regulated by law. At the moment, adoption is available to married persons, to single people and now, as of recently, to same-sex couples. There will be no change in that if the referendum is passed.
According to the No side advocacy group ‘Mothers and Fathers Matter’, a Yes vote will change our Constitution “to mean that children do not have a right to a mother and a father”. Is there such a right?
No. I don’t want to get into debate with one side or the other. That’s not the function of the Referendum Commission. People, I’m sure, have good reasons to vote Yes and good reasons to vote No. But there is no right to a mother and a father. Many children don’t have a mother and a father, and there is no way that they can enforce any such supposed right.
It doesn’t exist in law.
Again, here is the voice of authority on this matter, part of the independent body set up to regulate this constitutional change. And he has is flat-out calling the most repeated “No” arguments faulty. If you are voting “No” because of issues relating to surrogacy or adoption, you are voting “No” for no reason at all. Ask yourself, if these issues were not in play, how would you vote then? It’s hard to do, because you might be forced to confront some ugly truths.
I don’t really have all that much to say this week then. The vast majority of stuff is simple retreads (“Silent No!, Silent No!”), non-stories, or completely immaterial to the actual discussion at hand.
The time for mind changing has rapidly passed. The time for committing to vote is now. Five days from now, the polls will open, and the electorate of this country will have a chance to strike a blow for a worthy cause, a far worthier one than so many of the referendums that have come and gone over the last decade. Make life better for others. Make sure that our laws and constitution have a greater equality. Do the right thing. And most importantly of all, get out and vote.
I’ll speak again on SSM before Friday.