An event held at UCD entitled Redefining Marriage: the Human Rights Case for Voting No, organised by a faculty group to “present the case against the redefinition of marriage”, proved contentious on campus.
The event was organised in response to a seminar hosted by the UCD Human Rights Network last month billed as The Case for Marriage Equality, where one of the keynote speakers was Independent Senator Katherine Zappone.
The intent of the latest seminar, organised by staff body the UCD Newman Group, was to look at the marriage referendum from the perspective of the human rights of the child – that, ideally, children have a fundamental right to know their mother and father and be reared by them.
A small group of “concerned” students protested outside the lecture theatre holding a rainbow flag and signs that read: “Equality for All - No to Homophobia. Vote yes May 22.”
The students, who organised themselves via Facebook, said posters advertising the seminar were put up and torn down by students three times in the past week.
Dr William O’Connor, acting chairman of the Newman Group and a senior lecturer in engineering, said during his speech that the group received “a few abusive emails”, one from a colleague who called the organisers “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals”.
Speaking before the event, Dr O’Connor said of UCD students: “There was a movement of students to contact their granny to get them to vote “Yes”.
“If this referendum is passed, there will be students who won’t have a granny, who won’t have a mother, who might have two fathers or no father.
‘Luxury of a granny’
“The luxury of a granny will be denied to those children if this referendum is passed.”
Senator Rónán Mullen said voters should not be manipulated by the Government’s framing of the issue.
“Marriage equality’ is designed to emotionally push the voter in a particular direction…If you’re in favour of equality and all that stuff, you’ll vote Yes. If you’re a bigoted type, you’ll vote No…that’s not acceptable,” he said.
“The referendum is not about how we feel about gay people. It’s about what marriage means and what it means to us as a society,” he said.
“What a Yes vote in this referendum would do is it would copperfasten the radical legislation the Government has pushed through like a steam train [the Children and Family Relationships Bill]… because when you change the definition of marriage, you also change the definition of family in the Constitution,” he said.
Dr John Murray, chairman of the board of directors of the Iona Institute, also spoke at the seminar.
“The way I see [the referendum] is a change in marriage, a redefinition of marriage moving from our present understanding, which is the union of man and woman to a new understanding of marriage as genderless,” Dr Murray said before the seminar.
“To move away from our present understanding to a new understanding would involve changing marriage in a way that would be detrimental to the principle that children have a right to be raised by their mother and father.”
The rights of children to be raised by a mother and a father if possible… are weakened and destroyed by the change,” he said.