It used be said that all heresies come to die in Ireland. Now it seems that all constitutional issues come to be settled here. No country in the world has done what the Government now wants us to do – to legalise same-sex "marriage" by means of a popular vote. We must not do this either.
The resolution of this contemporary social issue presents us with a great challenge and opportunity. If we can chart a new and imaginative course towards finding an honest resolution of this issue for all, we will be creating a great gift not just for our own country but internationally as well.
The first step is, however, a courageous one – voting no – notwithstanding the constant pressure to make the placating response of endorsing this referendum proposal by the misapplication of the principle of equality.
If this referendum proposal is rejected, it opens the way for a constitutional settlement by adopting a new name and language for same-sex unions in our Constitution, and so allows for them to be legally recognised and equally respected for what they truly are.
This would lead to a constitutional recognition of same-sex unions which is different from marriage but, most importantly, it would accurately express the nature of these relationships in a caring and respectful way.
The real burden for a gay or lesbian person is the struggle to be recognised and accepted for who one really is. It is time that we allow their deepest identity to be expressed constitutionally in a way that is distinct from marriage, and thereby allow their relationships to be legally constituted in a way that is patently sincere and conscientious.
Those who are advocating a Yes vote might also step back and consider what they will achieve by imposing a new legal meaning of marriage, as between two people of one sex, upon a huge number of their fellow citizens who, in good conscience, will never accept this.
The current proposal is attempting to divest heterosexual couples of the separate and distinct identity of their relationships as “marriage”, even though these are the only relationships which, of themselves, can bring new life into the world.
We seem to have entirely forgotten that a relationship between a male and a female, irrespective of whether they beget children or not, demands distinctive and separate recognition as it captures the wholeness of human nature – male and female – in a unique way.
This proposed constitutional amendment has proceeded to a referendum without first being subjected to the scrutiny of an Oireachtas inquiry, a public hearing or even a working group, in which the various social, moral, legal and psychological implications of this proposal would first be teased out and clarified.
When seen in conjunction with the Children and Family Relationships Bill and, in particular, its provisions concerning assisted human reproduction from anonymous donors, it is clear that we are now immersed in a whole range of exceptionally serious issues which we need time to fathom, reflect upon and obtain considered advice about.
People are simply not accepting the line that the Children and Family Relationships Bill has nothing to do with the referendum. The fact that the Bill is being rushed through the Houses of the Oireachtas as the date of the referendum approaches is clear evidence that both are intricately connected.
Sober judgment is now essential and that requires time, maturity and consultation.
Honesty is also required. The increasing number of elected representatives who are privately expressing their doubts, both in relation to the Children and Family Relationships Bill and the referendum proposal, need to find their voice and face up to their responsibilities. The issues here have become too serious.
We need our political representatives to pull us back, help us reflect and discern a just resolution for all. The rest of us need to vote No now for a more truthful Yes in the future.
Patrick Treacy is a senior counsel. He has written a booklet in anticipation of the Marriage Referendum (in collaboration with Dr Rik Van Nieuwenhove). It can be found at integritas.ie, by clicking onto "Marriage Referendum" on the homepage of that website