Marriage referendum

 

Sir, – I and many other residents in Dublin 8 are extremely concerned by the No campaign posters appearing on our streets.

Most, if not all of these posters contain blatant disinformation. Laws that already have been legislated for in the Child and Family Act 2015 cover the issues raised and a Yes or a No vote in this referendum will have no impact whatsoever on them.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland was quick to make rulings when it came to radio and TV debate on these important issues but these posters can state whatever they wish even if it is factually incorrect.

The posters aim to further marginalise the thousands of single parents and their children living in our country, along with our LGBT citizens. This is unacceptable in Ireland in 2015 and shows a very sinister and increasingly desperate fringe element within the No campaign. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL MEANEY,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Sadly, I can think of many things that actually undermine marriages – crippling mortgages, the high cost of child care, zero-hour work contracts, family unfriendly work practices, abuse of alcohol, long commutes and stress. The negative implications of voting Yes in the forthcoming referendum articulated by some correspondents on this page seem theoretical and very far down the list. – Yours, etc,

JOHN BURNS,

Blackrock,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – The more I follow this never-ending debate the more I realise that I couldn’t care less whether men marry women or men marry men. However I do care about tolerance, freedom of speech and freedom of thought. I believe in live and let live; that people should have the freedom to believe what they choose and to live their lives and go about their business as they choose provided that in doing so they do not interfere with the rights of others. For that reason I will be voting No in the referendum. It is becoming abundantly clear that those advocating a Yes vote are totally intolerant of the rights of others to hold contrary opinions and to live their lives according to their beliefs. This referendum is an opportunity to stand up to a trendy pseudo-liberal tyranny and anyone who cares about tolerance and basic human rights and freedoms should do so by voting No. – Yours, etc,

MATT HARPER,

Monaghan.

Sir, – Is the price of “balanced” debate, in the context of the marriage equality referendum in Ireland, too high? How is balance determined? Surely it is overly simplistic to establish balance on the basis of airtime or column inches alone. Is facilitating the repeated airing of unfounded opinion ethical when there exists decades of empirical evidence to contradict it?

Susan Golombok, professor of family research and director of the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge, investigates the impact of new family forms on parenting and child development with specific focus on lesbian mother families, gay father families, single mothers by choice and families created by assisted reproductive technologies, including in vitro fertilisation (IVF), donor insemination, egg donation and surrogacy.

After examining research stretching back over four decades, she says that it is stigmatisation outside the family rather than relationships within it that creates difficulties for children in new family forms.

Some advocates of a No vote have repeatedly been given a platform in the media to voice the opinion that children who grow up in new family forms are deprived, damaged and different because the parenting that they receive is less than that received by children who are parented by a mother-father dyad.

I understand that journalists and broadcasters give voice to such opinion in the interests of balanced debate in the context of the marriage referendum. However, I question the ethics of repeatedly doing so and express my concern that the media, by regularly providing a public platform for such views, are contributing to the stigmatisation of children who grow up within these family forms.

Stigmatisation leads to devaluation, discrimination and psychological distress and may be harmful to some children and their families, many of whom are listening avidly to the debate because it directly affects their lives.

Arguments have been repeatedly put forward that fundamentally suggest that allowing marriage “without distinction as to their sex” will mean that Irish law cannot acknowledge anything extra-special about the relationship of “mummy, daddy and baby”, or place any unique priority on holding this relationship together.

The empirical evidence from a growing body of research from the UK, US and elsewhere does not support this viewpoint and in fact repeatedly shows that it is the quality of relationships that matters most to the wellbeing of families, not the number, gender, sexual orientation or genetic relatedness of the parents, or whether the child was conceived with the assistance of reproductive technology.

To give voice to opinion that children will be negatively impacted by marriage equality on one occasion, without reference to the empirical evidence, is arguably in the interests of balance, free speech and fairness. To repeatedly give a platform to such opinion and speculation is dangerous and unfair to many families as it has the capacity to fuel prejudice and discrimination which is harmful to the children and families of the types referenced in debate.

I call on broadcasters and other media to consider the impact that their editorial decisions have on real people. I ask them to put real children and real families before hypotheticals and argue that fairness is best served by seeking evidence rather than simply providing a platform for opinion irrespective of the position that evidence supports. – Yours, etc,

SABINA BRENNAN, PhD

Dublin 2.

Sir, – A multistorey mural in Dublin depicts two men embracing. No problem with that. The artist responsible for the mural, Joe Caslin, has publicly stated that the mural is on support of a Yes vote in the upcoming referendum. Again, perfectly fine. However, and here is the problem, murals like that require planning permission. Especially if they broadcast a political message supporting one side in an upcoming constitutional referendum. It’s similar to the rules for election posters, the public display of which is tightly regulated with substantial fines being levied for breaches. It comes as no surprise that the planning enforcement section of Dublin City Council has issued a statement that “the mural is under investigation and Section 152 warning letter has issued in relation to the mural”. Did the Yes side think it was exempt of the applicable legislation?

Following the news that Dublin City Council is enforcing the legislation, the Yes side has started an petition demanding that the mural in question be made exempt from the applicable legislation.

Ironically, Yes campaigners are caterwauling about the message on the poster from the No campaign. Posters which, it is worth noting, are displayed legally and which are not in breach of any regulations. – Yours, etc,

EVERT BOPP,

Portumna,

Co Galway.

Sir, – The Yes advocates suggest that a No result in the referendum would deny homosexual couples their happiness. Happiness is an elusive concept and whatever the prospects of attaining it, having the desired label on one’s relationship will not guarantee it.

There are other loving and caring relationships that demand and deserve our support, encouragement and, in many cases, societal and legal protection. They include homosexual, platonic and sibling relationships. However, none of them has the authentic and unique attributes of marriage.

Even if the marriage referendum is passed, people would recognise that homosexual marriage was not the real thing. It would be, in fact, an oxymoron. – Yours, etc,

JACK MORRISSEY,

Dublin 16.

Sir,– Thomas Finegan claims that, “the claimed constitutional right to same-sex marriage is arbitrary, incoherent and irrational” (“Yes campaign is based on entirely flawed premises”, Opinion & Analysis, April 21st). He is correct. But let me remind him that all meaning in language is arbitrary, and that our Constitution would be a meaningless conglomeration of symbols should we disregard the meaning attributed to those symbols. The Constitution itself is not important, but what it represents is. Our Constitution would be irrelevant if we should forget the principles upon which it is founded. Mr Finegan seems more concerned with the wording of the Constitution than with the values which it stands for. –Yours, etc,

COLM HIGGINS,

Monkstown,

Co Dublin.