Same Love: The Race For Same Sex Marriage
THE age-old battle between state and church is under way again as the government makes tentative moves on the issue of same-sex marriage. With a referendum set for early May of next year, what will it take for the people of Ireland to change the constitution on a subject that has divided the nation for decades? Should we be having a referendum at all, when other countries have simply legislated on the matter?
A referendum is held when the government believes that the opinion of the people of Ireland is essential when deciding whether or not to amend the constitution. This could be seen as a great advantage of living in a democratic state. However, is it not just the state hiding behind Bunreacht na hÉireann, so as not to offend the church? Rather than ensuring equal rights for all, the onus is instead placed on the people of Ireland on yet another hugely ethical issue, like abortion and divorce. The voters will be left to fight it out on street corners; albeit in this particular situation those voting in favour will more than likely be the ones to march the streets and speak louder than everyone else. Those voting against have had a tendency to sit quietly and turn their nose up at the notion, while the church leads the diatribe.
At the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference recently, Bishop Doran of Elphin stated that allowing same-sex marriage would be a “a grave injustice if the State ignores the uniqueness of the role of husbands and wives, and the importance of mothers and fathers in our society”. He went on to say that the conventional marriage between a man and a woman was the only way to ensure the continuation of the human race and the goodness of society.
The position of the Catholic Church on this issue seems to have been constant on that fact throughout – that a child cannot function properly within society unless they are born into and raised within a heterosexual household by both its natural mother and father. What they have consistently failed to take into account is a child who is orphaned, raised by a single parent, adopted or fostered. What of a child who would be endangered in that environment? That is not to say, of course, that a same-sex couple who have adopted or used other methods to conceive a child will always provide a safe and caring environment for the child but the overall view has been narrow minded.
If you examine the ‘pro’ position in comparison, their main emphasis has been on equality and the rights of two people who are in love and who want to commit to each other in the eyes of the law. Of course, there is the issue of children and being able to provide a safe and loving environment but this has not been the main focus of their campaign. The church seem to dismiss the former point completely and we are reminded with a wry smile of Reverend Lovejoy’s wife in The Simpsons, “please, won’t someone please think of the children!”
So what will it take to ensure that this referendum passes? The biggest obstacle as usual is the number of voters and the turnout on the day itself. The Union of Students of Ireland has stated it has registered 20,000 students to vote, forming part of its campaign to secure the right of all people to marry, regardless of sexual orientation. The student and youth vote will more than likely be stronger for this campaign than for any other vote that has preceded it as students look towards a future free from prejudice and restraint. With under six months to go until the referendum, it will be essential to keep momentum going throughout the campaign and to keep voters fully informed and motivated to go to the polling station on the big day. Much like other referendums, regardless of opinion polls in the months beforehand, many voters won’t make their mind up until the day itself and that is the greatest challenge facing this referendum.
Photos c/o euobserver.com, dailyrecord.co.uk