Same-sex marriage: Voters warned against complacency

Debate takes place in King’s Inns as Taoiseach sets May 22nd as date for referendum

Supporters of the yes side in May's marriage equality referendum were warned against complacency at a debate in the King's Inns in Dublin last night. Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said "complacency is the biggest enemy for those of us who support the referendum. We have to be conscious that referendum campaigns have a habit of being volatile."

She was the first speaker in a debate on the motion that "this house supports marriage equality in the upcoming referendum", which was chaired by Audrey Carville of RTE and organised by the King's Inns Gay, Lesbian, Straight Alliance. On RTE's Prime Time last night Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the referendum would taks place on May 22nd.

Ms Bacik said the definition of marriage had evolved over time and was not defined in the Constitution. Currently the state did not prevent marriage between those who love except for same sex couples, she said. There was "no basis in empirical evidence or lived experience" for such a ban, she said. Second speaker Dr John Murray of the Iona Institute said a yes vote would mean "marriage will no longer exist. It will be abolished," leading to "the destruction of a very important institution."

Society does a disservice if it fails to recognise the intimate bond between a father, mother and biological children, he said. “The state should allow a fairly large measure of freedom to people to arrange their lives as they see fit” but civil partnerships, guardianships etc, “cannot be placed alongside marriage as equally good,” he said. It was “ not unjust to treat different situations, differently.”


Next speaker Independent Senator David Norris described himself as "a 70 year old fairy. I don't want to get married myself but it wouldn've been nice 50 years ago." He was "a liberal who always fought for choice." Human dignity and liberty was "a cake which expands every time you give more to other people," he said.

To present marriage as an ideal was "perfect idiocy" he said when for most people it was "a bumpy ride." He marvelled at the reality that " a housebreaker, a child abuser, and alcoholic can get married and I cannot." He also recalled a time when many now opposing same sex marriage presented gay people as so promiscuous it was claimed some had 17,000 orgasms in a San Francisco bathhouse "and now they oppose us when we want to settle down."

Senior counsel Patrick Treacy said the yes side were "strongly arguing for uniformity." He recalled a Kings Inns debate on Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution 25 years ago when Senator Norris argued for the importance of recognising difference. "Now he is arguing for uniformity," he said.

Arguing that all were born male and female and that it was “a fact of life that no human being can exist unless there is a union of male and female,” he said, “that’s what marriage is based on.” He warned against “the secularist frame” which was “all about equality” and called on voters to “honour gender-based truth.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times