Marriage referendum

Sir, – Mattie McGrath TD contends that, "whatever the outcome of the referendum", the rights provided to same-sex couples through civil partnership "will not change" ("Head to Head: Mattie McGrath TD argues against same-sex marriage", May 8th). This view glosses over the fact that civil partnership, unlike civil marriage, was introduced through legislation alone and is not constitutionally protected. Therefore, civil partnership rights can also be eroded through legislation; what one government "gives", any future government can take away without recourse to the people. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – Breda O'Brien ("Asking questions about funding for referendum campaign", Opinion & Analysis, May 9th) asks the question: "Can American money buy an Irish referendum?"


I believe that if this referendum is passed, it will not have been bought by anyone. It will pass because Irish voters believe it is right! – Yours, etc,


Dublin 5.

Sir, – Breda O'Brien writes of the accounts of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, "This is a story for investigative journalists that doesn't even require much investigation." In this I must agree with her. The various organisations involved in promoting marriage equality in Ireland have long published their accounts, made available donor databases, complied with requests from the Standards in Public Office Commission and sought to be open and honest in all their dealings. In her laudable efforts to aid in that drive for transparency I can only hope that Ms O'Brien has become aware of some excellent policies which she may recommend to the Iona Institute, which only seemed to acknowledge the existence of Sipo on April 23rd, less than a month before a vote on an issue against which it has been campaigning since its inception. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

A chara, – Prof Oran Doyle points out (May 8th) the lack of consideration of constitutional article 42A.4.1° in the Iona Institute's commissioned legal opinion on the upcoming marriage referendum. This article upholds the child's best interests in cases of access, custody, adoption and guardianship. My only guess at the reason for the omission is that it leaves entirely open the question of what the best interests of the child actually are.

If the referendum passes with a Yes so that marriage, the foundation of family and the fundamental unit group of society are all redefined in Article 41 (“The Family”), having both a mother and a father is not going to figure very highly in those best interests.

This reality has already been played out in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal for 11 years. The number of same-sex couples constitutes about 1 per cent of households in that state. However, according to the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange, some 20 per cent of adoptions are granted to same-sex couples. Moreover, adoption charities that wished to place children with opposite-sex couples only have been forced to close by denial of state licence.

Once you make having a mother or a father optional, it is very difficult, in the first instance, to see both as essential.– Is mise,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – As the more than proud father of one shining person who happens to be a member of the LGBT community, I will be voting Yes in the coming referendum. In that sense it is a personal matter. I have read quite a bit in the papers about our new more tolerant society, and that may be so, and of course it is a solid point of view from which to vote Yes, but I don’t see it as a matter of tolerance, so much as apology. Apology for all the hatred, violence, suspicion, patronisation, ignorance, murder, maiming, hunting, intimidation, terrorising, shaming, diminishment, discrimination, destruction, and yes, intolerance, visited upon a section of humanity for God knows how many hundreds of years, if not millennia.

My child will be just shy of 18 when the votes are cast, and therefore cannot vote himself. By voting Yes I will be engaging in the simple task of honouring the majesty, radiance and promise of his human soul. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

A chara, – Seamus O'Callaghan (May 6th) makes an insightful point – the replacement of the words "husband" and "wife" with the word "spouse" will be a likely consequence if the Yes votes win. He suggests that in reality we may end up with "civil spouseships". If so, and in deference to efficacy and reason, perhaps the referendum should be about removing the word "marriage" from the Constitution and replacing it with "civil spouseship" or some other term better suited to the State's purpose.

This revision of the terms of the referendum would help assuage the fears of traditionalists that the State is commandeering the word marriage and adding meaning to it gratuitously. It would also help promote the rational agenda, eg easing the inevitable recognition of the right of three or more people to form civil spouseships instead of the traditional pair. Equality is best achieved if the State eschews the word marriage (loaded, as it is, with hints of the non-rational: romance, tradition, sanctity) and replaces it with a more politic term that heralds a tolerant and inclusive future. A No vote then is the rational option as it will clear the way for a referendum on civil spouseship. – Is mise,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Ryan Connolly (May 8th) says that the ideal family structure for bringing up children is two married biological parents and that single parents, people in poverty and, presumably, lesbian and gay couples, face additional difficulties raising their children. But poor people are not prevented from marrying because of these difficulties yet that is what is happening to lesbians and gay men at the moment.

Mr Connolly says that the law governing civil marriage should set out the ideal circumstances for raising children. But the law cannot prescribe ideals and one size does not fit all families.

There can be more love and care in an impoverished same-sex family than in the richest opposite-sex family.

Forbidding same-sex couples from marrying will not stop them living together and having children but the prohibition and the sense of social disapproval that it conveys will definitely cause pain and distress to the children concerned. For the sake of those children, society should do all it can to help, support and respect the dignity of their parents, regardless of their sexual orientation. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – What is the evidence that marriage increases the incidence of surrogacy? What evidence is there that a child fares better in a male/female relationship rather than a sole female or female/female, or male/male relationship? What part of “No junk mail please” does the No campaign not understand? – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.

Sir, – The Labour Party’s posters for the forthcoming referendum say “Let’s treat everyone equally”. The Coalition might start by extending to married couples the financial rights given to same-sex civil partners.

As I state in my book Family Breakdown ( 2014), pre-nuptial agreements are not binding on the Irish courts, while cohabitants (including same-sex civil partners) are entitled, under section 202(1) of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010, to enter into an agreement "to provide for financial matters during the relationship or when the relationship ends, whether through death or otherwise".

Rule 17 (1) of the Rules of the Superior Courts (Civil Partnership and Cohabitation) 2011 says that civil partners swearing verifying affidavits must include “any agreements in respect of their finances”. The courts are bound to take such agreements into account.

In other words, same-sex couples may be financially better off in a civil partnership than being married. How’s that for “equality”? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Miriam Lord's No poster of the week, "Shergar wasn't bred by two stallions – vote No" (May 8th) demands a response. I've checked the birth records for 1978 and have discovered that his parents were not married. If Shergar was here today, would he vote neigh? – Yours, etc,


The Lough,