20 short letters to The Irish Times on same-sex marriage

Points and issues raised by readers on the merits of voting Yes or No in referendum


Sir, – Brian Dineen (March 18th) writes, “Outdated notions that sharply delineate parental responsibilities in a gendered fashion are not a sound basis for forming policy”.

If gender is not a consideration in evaluating parental abilities and roles, then what is? You cannot ignore the impact female mothers and male fathers have in rearing a child, no matter how much you may wish to, in order to support the argument that same-sex couples are the “same” as opposite-sex couples in this regard. – Yours, etc,

Co Wicklow

A chara, – Brian Dineen contends that the principle of granting custody of a child “of tender years” to the mother will not be exclusively undermined by a Yes result in the forthcoming marriage referendum.

This point is based on a 1999 High Court decision, which has influenced court rulings since then, but it is not written into law. What is on the statute books, however, is the automatic granting of guardianship of children born out of wedlock to the mother (Guardianship of Infants Act 1964), for example. There might just be something special about the relationship of a mother to her young children. – Is mise,

Dublin 4

Sir, – David Thunder (March 20th) acknowledges there are two sets of “deep and passionately held” convictions at play in the marriage equality debate. He believes that whatever the outcome of the referendum, one of these sets of convictions will prevail over the other, and be “imposed” by the state on all.

This is not the case. Should the referendum pass, both of these sets of convictions will be accommodated, as anyone who feels morally or religiously prohibited from marrying someone of the same sex will remain free not to do so.

However, in the event of the referendum failing, those who consider themselves under no such restrictions will be denied similar freedom to act in accordance with their conscience. The only result that allows each citizen to decide for themselves, and to act accordingly, is Yes. – Yours, etc,

Dublin 2

Sir, – Stephen Wall (March 21st) states that a Yes victory in the referendum will not affect the rights of those opposed to same-sex marriage as they can still marry whoever they wish irrespective of the result, while a No victory would deny that right to same-sex couples. This shows how far apart both sides are in this debate. Those opposed to same-sex marriage see marriage itself as the discriminator, of its innate nature exclusive to a man and a woman because only they have a capacity to bring new life into being. It is not in any way to disallow freedom to others to live our their relationships with respect, or to give those relationships a special status of their own in civil law.

For opponents of same-sex marriage, the issue is one of children’s rights. For supporters, it is one of adult rights and, while children’s rights are certainly not denied, they are seen in a different light, one that does not set a value on their biological link to both parents, merely to one. – Yours, etc,

Co Cork

Sir, – In redefining marriage to include same-sex marriage, we are opening a cash machine for barristers, as much of our present legislation will be open to challenge. – Yours, etc,


Sir, – Having been in a heterosexual relationship for some time, the issue of marriage has been raised (tentatively). I have concluded that I do not want to get married as I do not want to join a club that by definition discriminates against homosexuals.

Marriage is under the microscope now. What is it? What is it for? Is it relevant? Any institution founded on dogma is threatened by scrutiny.

The referendum does threaten the institution of marriage and it does change the definition of marriage. This can only be a good thing. – Yours, etc,

Co Down

A chara, – A core tenet of a republic is that all citizens are equal before the law. Some opponents of marriage equality argue that what they describe as their sincerely held religious beliefs should confer on them an additional legal right, namely the right to discriminate against gay and lesbian married couples.

By the same token, do I have the right to discriminate against people I consider to be homophobic? And will this “right” also be worthy of constitutional protection? – Is mise,

Dublin 7

Sir, – The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has lost all credibility in our household, and I suspect with many other Catholic families, by its unwillingness to speak out on the forthcoming referendum which seeks to change the meaning of both equality and marriage (“Catholic priests’ group won’t take stance on referendum”, March 24th). We are in a sad place when the ACP, which represents so many priests, panders to a few maverick members and refuses to take a cue from its bishops and the universal church. – Yours, etc,

Co Kerry

Sir, – Fr Brendan Hoban, head of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, has urged priests not to direct parishioners to vote either Yes or No in the marriage equality referendum. In what appears to be support for gay people, Fr Hoban said that “sexual orientation does not debar anyone from God’s love”.

But nobody, that I am aware of, was disputing this fact, and gay people have known this for millennia.

What parishioners need to hear is not that God loves gay people, but that God supports their relationships to the point of wishing them to share in, not only civil, but sacramental marriage. – Yours, etc,

Dublin 14

Sir, – What is the difference between civil partnership and civil marriage in Irish law?

I think this needs to be made crystal clear to voters before they are asked to vote in the May referendum.

Unless we are clear about what we are voting for, the exercise is a nonsense. – Yours, etc,

Dublin 18

A chara, – This September, my long-suffering wife and myself will hopefully celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Our son has just celebrated the fifth anniversary of his civil partnership to his wonderful Brazilian husband. Both unions are equally and reciprocally enhanced by the other.

As parents, I believe that our hope is that our sons and daughters will find love and end up in a loving, stable and permanent relationship. These relationships are not diminished by being gay. Love is love and it has always been thus. So let us be brave.

Allow our gay sons and daughters access to the wonderful institution that is marriage with all its trials and tribulations but with a wealth of so many other good things that only the married among us are party to. – Is mise,

Co Wexford.

Sir, – I’m rather at loss as to what Pádraig McCarthy (April 3rd) believes are the possible unintended legal consequences of marriage equality which the Government has not addressed.

The only material legal consequence is intended, that is, removing the current ban on marriage between two persons of the same sex which exists in section (2)(e) of the Civil Registration Act 2010 and at common law.

The law on prohibited degrees of relationship will continue to apply. – Yours, etc,

Dublin 3

Sir, – Jennifer O’Connell (“There should be no right to intolerance”, Life & Style, April 6th) writes that “Ours will be the first country in the world to hold a referendum on gay marriage”.

A constitutional referendum was held in Slovenia on March 25th, 2012, and the result was 54.55 per cent in favour of opposite-sex marriage, another was held in Croatia on December 1st, 2013, and the result was 65.87 per cent in favour of opposite-sex marriage, and a third referendum was held in Slovakia on February 7th, 2015, and the result was 94.50 per cent in favour of opposite-sex marriage.

Have all these countries become intolerant or is it a form of intolerance not to recognise that other people can and do choose differently from us? – Yours, etc,


Sir, – In her celebration of the possibility that the Irish electorate might give approval to same-sex marriage, Jennifer O’Connell calls for denying tolerance to the intolerant; that is, to those who support the traditional concept of marriage as being between partners of the opposite sex.

One wonders if her tolerance would extend to supporting a possible future referendum not limiting marriages to just two partners. Such marriages exist now, and in the past, in many other cultures. Approval could be interpreted as a manifestation of Ireland’s embrace of multiculturalism. – Yours, etc,

Professor Emeritus of History,
Fordham University,
New York

Sir, – Would it not be more honest to use the term “civil union” to cover all forms of partnership or marriage sanctioned by law?

Those who still believe that marriage denotes the union of a man and a woman could use that word to describe that relationship informally or following a religious service. – Yours, etc,

Dublin 18

A chara, – Katherine Davey asks why we should not use the term civil union for all partnerships sanctioned by law. This would leave marriage as a preserve of the various religious denominations, ignoring the longstanding status of civil marriage. According to the latest CSO figures, 29 per cent of marriages have civil ceremonies only, with no religious component.

Furthermore, given our current constitutional position, Ms Davey’s proposal would require a new referendum. The referendum on May 22nd is about whether we should grant the same constitutional status and dignity to all relationships granted civil recognition by the state. It can only strengthen marriage as an institution that we can promote it to a greater number of committed couples. – Is mise,

Co Wicklow

Sir, – Katharine Davey is not alone in her repeated calls to differentiate terms such as “marriage” and “civil union” (March 28th; April 10th). The thrust of this referendum is that there is a difference between them. Those who seek to be married, and their families, deserve better than to be fobbed off with “civil union”.

The ever-evolving definition of marriage – which nowadays includes such new-fangled innovations as mixed-race marriages, divorce, civil and religious ceremonies, marriages not involving domestic violence, marriages entered into freely by both parties regardless of the feeling of their respective parents – can and will survive the inclusion of same-sex relationships. – Yours, etc,

Co Westmeath

A chara, – Pádraig McCarthy (April 3rd) gets precisely to the heart of the marriage referendum – how LGBT people are perceived.

Pádraig’s description of our relationships (“biological and human differences“) highlights exactly the problem that LGBT people face every day in Ireland – we are seen as different, separate, distinct. Not the same, not included, not part of the gang. He talks of wanting to “honour the distinctiveness of each kind of relationship”. I for one am tired of being considered only in respect of how I am “different” or “distinct”. Can Pádraig and others not see that I’m just another human being trying to live a normal, ordinary life in this country?

We are all different in a million ways. Let’s start focusing on our common human similarities instead and we might have a much happier society. – Is mise,

Dublin 15

Sir, – I don’t think you need a man and a woman to raise a child. I started life in a Catholic orphanage run by nuns, a very happy place. I had 10 years in boarding school run by Catholic nuns and loved every minute of it. I had my bag packed and ready to return a week before the holidays ended. My adoptive mother was widowed when I was six and worked all her life, and didn’t remarry until I was 19. So all my formative years were without a man in my life.

One question does occur to me – if being raised by a man and a woman is so important then why didn’t the church see to it that the boys and girls, like me, had men and women to care for them in those institutions? Why didn’t the nuns and priests or brothers who ran residential institutions have to live in community in those institutions? For the sake of the children’s welfare and best formation, of course.

I would have loved to have had my dad all my life and I loved my stepfather. But I didn’t need either to be well raised. It’s love that matters, whether the parent is single, homosexual or heterosexual. – Yours, etc,

Co Kerry

Sir, – Regarding the selection of letters on same-sex marriage, I detect a bias towards the Yes side. I may be totally mistaken, and I do not expect for this letter to be published either. – Yours, etc,

Dublin 7