Marriage referendum

 

Sir, – I am going to vote No in the marriage referendum. In doing so, I cannot be charged with either homophobia or religious bigotry. As a UCC governor in the 1990s, I promoted the LGBT society for college recognition. In public life, I consistently opposed the Catholic ethos in the law and I vigorously worked for the separation of church and state.

The proposed marriage amendment is a constitutional nonsense. It is being sedulously promoted by Government, opposition and various agencies as an equality issue, beginning with the slanted and pre-emptive “marriage equality” shorthand title in the constitutional Bill. This description has been further reduced by the Yes side to an equality slogan simpliciter, thus attempting to imply that No proponents are reactionaries, opposed to a basic principle of democracy.

All citizens are guaranteed equality “before the law’” (Article 40.1). Physiologically, however, (without being indelicate) homosexual union is qualitatively different from the complementary heterosexual one. In the former, for example, the issue of consummation, with its legal significance, does not apply. The two categories, heterosexual and homosexual, simply cannot be accommodated in the same term, “marriage”, without redefining that word to a meaningless level.

In the course of the debate, attempts have been made to present homosexual “marriage” as the enlightened outcome of progressive gender history. In fact, the stages cited in this alleged process (the ending of restrictive colour bans, for example) have to do with changing social and political circumstances surrounding heterosexual relations, not precedents for a homosexual union being accepted as a norm.

Article 41 of the Constitution, as of now, clearly deals with the man-woman based family. If the proposed amendment is popularly approved, then a “marriage between two persons of the same sex will have the same status under the Constitution as a marriage between a man and a woman” and “will be recognised as a family and be entitled to the Constitutional protection for families” (Referendum Commission).

Thus, if the referendum is passed, Article 41, heretofore unambiguously and exclusively heterosexual, will also recognise a homosexual couple “as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society . . . a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights , antecedent and superior to all positive law”. Moreover such a couple will be guaranteed protection by the State “as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State” (Article 1.2).

Because I reject this grotesque nonsense, I will be voting No. – Yours, etc,

JOHN A MURPHY,

Cork.

Sir, – Breda O’Brien (“Asking questions about funding for referendum campaign”, Opinion & Analysis, May 9th) has done us some service by highlighting the undue external influence being brought to bear on our latest “equal rights” referendum.

In 1983 we had a constitutional amendment, to support the “equal right” to life of the unborn. The inspiration and funding for the Yes side at the time came largely from American Christian fundamentalists, which ultimately influenced the outcome of that referendum.

Again we are being asked to vote on a referendum which is being substantially influenced by overseas funding, this time by American neo-liberal fundamentalists.

The 1983 referendum has condemned us to an almost Sisyphean routine of unintended consequences, and I fear this latest attempt to entomb another set of “equal rights” in our Constitution will result in a similar outcome. I voted No in 1983, and I intend voting No again in 2015. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK MURRAY,

Dunlavin,

Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I wish to reassure Breda O’Brien that my Yes vote has not been bought, nor influenced, by anyone’s money. – Yours, etc,

TERRY DOLAN,

Dublin 15 .

A chara, – Isn’t it time that the broadcasting rules on referendums were altered to ensure that discussion centres on the actual topic to be voted on? The vast majority of the debate on the airways regarding the marriage referendum seems to be on adoption and surrogacy, which the Referendum Commission has made clear are not related to this vote. Responsibility toward actually debating the issue is surely more important rather than a fixation on giving equal seconds to the Yes and No sides. – Is mise,

FRANK FOGARTY,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – Should the Government have a highly competent team of counsellors on standby to support the avalanche of distressed couples who fear that their marriages may become damaged by the passing of the civil marriage referendum? – Yours, etc,

NOEL HUSTON,

Athlone,

Co Westmeath.

Sir, – Oran Doyle’s criticism (May 8th) of the legal opinion published last week on the Iona Institute’s website is misplaced.

That opinion concerned some of the legal effects of the proposed marriage amendment. It concluded that, if the referendum is passed, it would likely be unconstitutional to give a preference to one type of married couple (opposite-sex) over another type (same-sex) in laws around adoption, fostering, donor-assisted human reproduction or surrogacy save in very exceptional circumstances. In other words, if Article 41 is changed as proposed, it would become constitutionally more difficult to reflect in our laws the view that married men and women are different from two married people of the same sex in matters concerning the raising and welfare of children.

Naturally this legal advice is inconvenient for those (like the Government) desperately trying to downplay the ramifications for children of the redefinition of marriage being proposed. But, to be fair, the Yes campaign appears to have conceded the validity of the opinion’s analysis. Indeed even Prof Doyle did not contend that it was wrong. Instead he considered that the opinion’s “focus” on legislation was a “partial account” which gave “no consideration” to the current Article 42A.4.1° (which provides that in legal proceedings concerning adoption, guardianship or custody of a child, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration).

In fact, the opinion not only quotes Article 42A.4.1° but contains a lengthy discussion of possible arguments that the best interests of the child would require more favourable treatment in adoption, fostering, etc, be given to opposite-sex married couples as a class (see pages 93 to 113). It was in light of such a discussion, and not in its absence, that the opinion nevertheless reached the robust and very significant conclusions that it did. – Yours , etc,

JOHN MURRAY

Chairman of the

Board of Directors,

Iona Institute,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – As a married couple we believe that marriage means different things to each couple, each culture, each generation and each creed. We all define our own marriage in our hearts.

The law is different. Civil marriage is defined as the legal contract between spouses, registered by the State. Voting Yes would not change the way civil marriages are registered by law nor have implications on property, taxation or succession laws. Civil marriage stays the same. The only question we must answer on May 22nd is whether or not marriage is open to all.

How each of us defines marriage cannot be changed by any vote. By voting Yes, all we are doing is allowing same-sex couples to seek out the meaning and definition of marriage in their own hearts. That’s why we are voting Yes. – Yours, etc,

ALISON HAMILTON,

COLM JORDAN,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Frank Harvey (May 12th) rightly chides Portmarnock Golf Club for only now considering the possibility of female members. However if the “equality” brigade succeeds in bringing in same-sex “marriages”, how could it then criticise Portmarnock for having a same-sex golf club? – Yours, etc,

KEVIN O’SULLIVAN,

Letterkenny,

Co Donegal.

Sir, – This referendum will not affect the children of heterosexual couples and single parents. It will affect a very tiny number of children that have gay parents. A Yes win will give those children the opportunity to have a second parent and not just one parent and their partner. The legal implications for that child are huge.

If your primary concern is the welfare of children, ask yourself what is in the best interest of all the children of our nation, not just the rights of children in a theoretical utopia. – Yours, etc,

TOM CAVANAGH,

Dublin 18.