Marriage referendum

 

Sir, – Patrick Treacy argues that by voting No, it will be possible to “chart a new and imaginative course” towards resolving the debate (“Be courageous and vote No in marriage poll”, Opinion & Analysis, March 3rd). Mr Treacy’s “new and imaginative solution” – legal recognition for same-sex couples in a form that is different from marriage, and called by another name – sounds an awful lot like civil partnership.

Let nobody be fooled – a No vote will not open the door to a third way that is not even on the table. Just as rejecting the abolition of the Seanad did not institute Seanad reform, so rejecting the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples will not result in a new and imaginative solution. It will not result in equality. It will retain the current system where same-sex relationships are treated as lesser than heterosexual relationships.

Mr Treacy asks those advocating a Yes vote to “step back and consider what they will achieve by imposing a new legal meaning of marriage upon a huge number of their fellow citizens who, in good conscience, will never accept this”. I have taken his advice and come to the conclusion that, by necessity, a referendum involves one side having a decision imposed on it.

If the referendum passes, Mr Treacy may be a bit annoyed. He may retain his opinion that this would “divest” heterosexual marriages of meaning – although I cannot agree with this view, as I don’t believe that the value of the marriages of my family and friends is determined by reference to my inability to get married, but rather by the quality of their relationship and commitment to each other. He will, however, to all intents and purposes, not “lose” anything tangible.

Perhaps Mr Treacy may therefore also do me the courtesy of stepping back and considering what he will be doing by enforcing his beliefs on me and others like me. If the referendum fails, I will be unable to stand up in front of the people I love and pledge my commitment to my partner as a married woman. My mother will be unable to invite people to her daughter’s wedding. I will have to explain to my nieces and nephews, and maybe even my own children one day, the reason why I am treated differently to my brothers and sister. Mr Treacy says that this is acceptable because he doesn’t believe that my relationship captures the “wholeness of human nature”. I say that if one defines human nature as “whole” by reference to one’s gender, rather than one’s kindness, commitment, generosity of self and love, human nature is a far blander concept than most people would think it to be.

Finally, I’d like to address Mr Treacy’s rather patronising attempt to tell me what my problems are and how I can solve them.

As a gay person, I am happy to report that my “real burden” is not the struggle to be recognised and accepted for who I really am. I am secure in my sense of self, enjoy a happy and stable work and home life, and have been in a loving relationship with my partner for the last four years. The only burden I have faced as a result of being gay is that the minute I came out, my relationships were immediately treated as less legitimate than those of my siblings.

Thankfully, on May 22nd, the people of Ireland have a chance to remedy this inequality. I urge the people to have the courage to stand up for a more equal Ireland, and vote Yes to the referendum. – Yours, etc,

RACHEL BARRY,

Greystones,

Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I find Patrick Treacy’s definition of courage as puzzling as he finds the definition of marriage.

Anonymously voting to maintain the status quo in a democratic referendum doesn’t quite compare to publicly identifying oneself as part of an oppressed (by law in many cases) minority, possibly resulting in loss of family and friends, and demanding equal recognition in a society conditioned to despise you.

Mr Treacy praises heterosexual marriage as capturing “the wholeness of human nature”, a concept humanity has been struggling with since self-awareness and will probably never fully grasp. This claim seems to suggest either man and woman are binary opposites which complement each other, similar to the 17th-century arguments to exclude women from the public sphere of society, or that the enigmatic human wholeness he speaks of can be achieved with different genitalia.

In any case, this statement does a disservice to the various gender identities we are fortunate to include within Irish society today.

I am admittedly intrigued by the importance given to procreation in this definition of marriage. I propose a new constitutional amendment – all heterosexual couples must be tested for fertility prior to marriage. If they cannot conceive, their union can be constitutionally recognised in a way that is different from marriage, “but would accurately express the nature of these relationships in a caring and respectful way”, as with Mr Treacy’s proposal for same-sex partnerships.

But before any couple is given this label, I should point out that historically speaking the phrase “equal but different” in a legal sense doesn’t work out well for everyone. – Yours, etc,

ANNIE KEEGAN,

Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I am disappointed at the lack of representation of LGBT people in photographs illustrating articles relating to the marriage referendum, and the Families Bill. Actual people. Not hands. Not rings. Not rainbow cakes. Not wedding cake figurines. Actual people. Because it is actual people who are at the heart of the families Bill. It is actual people who are at the heart of the marriage referendum. Please represent us. We are more than hands. – Yours, etc,

DARREN McMAHON,

Ennis,

Co Clare.