Sir, – All human beings should have the same basic human rights. And so it is good that same-sex couples in Ireland have got civil rights equal to those enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
But “equality” does not mean the “same”.
We are all equal but not all the same. A union of two men or two women can never be the same as a union of a man and a woman. Man and woman are genetically, biologically and functionally different.
Their union as a couple has been the fundamental cornerstone of society from time immemorial.
We have always called this union marriage, and recognized its essential essence as the exclusive physical union between a man and a woman.
Please do not let this Government do our thinking for us. — Yours, etc,
Sir, – Freedom of speech is protected by Article 40.6.1 of the Constitution. This means that Irish citizens have the right to express freely their “convictions and opinions”.
In the context of the forthcoming referendum, numerous opinions have been expressed with great conviction.
Personally I place greater value on informed opinion over uninformed opinion.
I place greater value on opinion that has been formulated through careful consideration of the evidence than on opinion that ignores facts or empirical evidence.
I also value opinions that recognise complexity and consider context over ethnocentric and naive opinion.
However, Article 40.6.1 does not distinguish between informed and uninformed opinion.
As a consequence people are free to express the opinion that marriage has always been between a man and a woman even though this opinion ignores the evidence that same-sex marriage has existed for millennia across cultures. They are free to express this opinion even though it denies the fact that same-sex marriage was recognized in Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures and same-sex marriages took place in Greek and early Roman culture and in Europe during the middle ages. The opinion that same-sex marriage is an oxymoron fails to recognise that the exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of marriage is a preserve of the modern period and is heavily influenced by western culture.
People are entitled to express the opinion that marriage is and always has been about procreation while ignoring the reality of childless marriages and the historical evidence that marriage traditionally was a property agreement about politics, money and power.
People can express the opinion that marriage is about complementarity of the sexes even though this opinion ignores the complexity of the marital relationship and reduces the contribution of each party to the biology of their reproductive organs.
People are free to express the opinion that the union between a man and a woman is the natural union on which society is founded despite its inherent implication that any other type of union is unnatural.
People are free to express opinions about surrogacy in the context of same-sex marriage even though surrogacy is an entirely distinct issue that primarily affects different sex couples.
People are entitled to express the opinion that children fare better in families that have a mother and a father despite decades of empirical research that clearly shows that it is the quality of relationships that matters most to the well-being 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.
It is clear that people are free to express opinions that construct otherness based on sexual orientation in order to perpetuate inequality.
It is clear that people are free to hold opinions on what marriage means to them even if this opinion ignores evidence and reality.
However, when voting in a referendum, we have a duty to consider the rights of our fellow Irish citizens irrespective of our personal opinions.
On May 22nd we will be voting on whether to amend the Constitution by inserting a new section stating: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”
The Constitution states that all Irish citizens shall be held equal before the law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that “all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.
We must not make our decision in the marriage referendum at the level of gender or sexual orientation but at the more fundamental level of the human being and at the level of Irish citizenship.
We must view each human being and each Irish citizen as equal and we must ask ourselves, if I vote No will I deprive one Irish citizen of a right that is afforded to another Irish citizen?
If I vote No, will I be discriminating against my fellow citizens on the grounds of gender or sexual orientation. Do I have any objective justification for this discrimination? If your justification is grounded only in opinion I remind you that you are entitled to hold and express that opinion but you are not entitled to vote to discriminate against an individual on the basis of gender or sexual orientation and so in the absence of an objective justification you must vote Yes irrespective of your opinion.
On May 22nd we are not voting on your personal opinion of what marriage is or isn’t. We are voting on civil marriage which brings with it protections and benefits under the Constitution.
This vote does not require you to change your opinion nor will it prevent you from voicing unfounded opinions but it does require that you vote based on the constitutional entitlement of all Irish citizens to equal treatment before the law. – Yours, etc,
SABINA BRENNAN, PhD
Sir, – I am becoming increasingly irritated by politicians, wealthy “celebrities” and now the Garda Representative Association telling me to vote Yes.
Marriage is used to hold our society and social structures together and its meaning does not need to be changed. – Yours, etc,