Marriage referendum – the final days of campaign

 

Sir, – I am delighted that numerous independent experts have clarified that the marriage equality referendum is, in fact, about marriage equality.

I am delighted that Adoption Authority chief Geoffrey Shannon has stated categorically that the adoption process will not change as a consequence of the referendum on May 22nd, that the best interests of the child will remain the key issue in determining whether someone gets permission to adopt.

I am delighted that Ireland’s leading children’s rights advocates Fergus Finlay (Barnardos), Tanya Ward (Children’s Rights Alliance) and Grainne Long (ISPCC) have made clear that marriage equality and the extension of constitutional protection is in the best interests of all children.

I am delighted that the chairman of the Independent Referendum Commission, Mr Justice Kevin Cross, has clarified that there is no right of access to surrogacy to any married couple whether same sex or different sex.

I am also delighted that Mr Justice Kevin Cross has clarified that the requirement that marriage be contracted “in accordance with law” is key and will remain unchanged such that the same prohibitions (eg between close relatives) will continue in relation to all marriages whether same sex or different sex.

I am delighted that Mr Justice Kevin cross has also clarified that civil partnership and civil marriage are, in fact, different by explaining that married couples have constitutional and legal protection whereas civil partners only have legal protection. The significance of this being that legal protection can be changed, amended, whittled down by act of the Oireachtas, unlike constitutional protection, which can only be removed by the vote of the people in a referendum.

In the upcoming marriage equality referendum, we are voting to extend a protection that currently exists for some Irish citizens to all Irish citizens. We are voting for or against equality. I am voting Yes because I believe in equality. We need no other reason to vote Yes.

By voting No to equality you will be endorsing inequality, you will be endorsing discrimination. A No vote will send a message to our Government, to the world, to our children and to our children’s children that Irish people think that it is okay to discriminate, that we think that it is okay to treat one Irish citizen differently to another Irish citizen, to treat one human being differently to another human being, to treat one family member differently to another family member.

I have two sons, I love them both equally. Both are Irish citizens. One can marry and the other cannot. That’s inequality.

On May 22nd we have a unique opportunity to address that inequality, to make history, to show the world that Ireland doesn’t discriminate. – Yours, etc,

SABINA

BRENNAN, PhD

Clontarf, Dublin 3.

Sir, – This referendum is about me. About my partner. My friends. It is about giving us the right to be equal. It is about affording us the right to civil marriage. It is not about adoption, fostering, surrogacy, single parents, or religious marriage. Any problems you may have with those issues have nothing to do with this referendum, and must be dealt with separately. If you feel strongly about any of those issues, contact your representative and start a debate, but please don’t vote No because of them. Those issues are not what this referendum is about. It is about affording me the right to marry my partner. Nothing else. It really is that simple. We are citizens just like you. This is our country too. If this doesn’t pass, our country will have told us we are worth less, that we mean less, that our relationships are worth less, that our families are worth less.

There are many of you out there who couldn’t imagine being treated differently from anyone else. Imagine it. Imagine the country was voting on your relationships, your families, your children. Imagine you were being discussed by everyone in the country. Imagine your relationships weren’t constitutionally protected. Imagine that talking about your life, in some contexts, required balance.

My country is treating me like a second-class citizen but I am equal to every person in this country. I want the rights you have; nothing more, or less. You can give me those rights by voting Yes. – Yours, etc,

MARK WARD,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Editing is okay, distortion is not. In my letter of May 7th, I did not say it would take “a combination of case law and legislation” to undo the present legal definition of marriage. Either/or would do. (The offending phrase was grafted in from a previous omitted sentence on the historical development.) Nor did I misquote the Constitution as referring to “woman in the home”. (My use of quotation marks acknowledged the elision; and it really is “the Family”, not “the family”!) Mere pedantic quibbles, you may say. More significantly, the three sentences you chose to cut contained the main point of my letter: namely, to criticise a specific Irish Times editorial (May 5th) for perpetuating the myth of a “constitutional definition” of marriage. – Yours, etc,

NOREEN

O’DONOVAN HAGE,

Ballydehob, Co Cork.

Sir, – I was disappointed to read John A Murphy’s declaration of his intention to vote No (May 13th). I was president of UCC students’ union in 1980/81 and remember well how significant his support was to us in our attempt to get recognition. I also recall the clear message of exclusion which was conveyed by the then college authorities’ virulent refusal. They slammed the door in our faces and firmly bolted it.

However, I can happily contrast that to the feeling of inclusion when we founded the UCC LGBT staff network in 2007. Having been away for almost a quarter of a century, I returned to UCC to work as a librarian in 2003. Four years later I was pleasantly surprised when the equality officer in HR sent an email to all staff proposing the establishment of the staff network. The network was formally launched by the university president in early 2008.

It is transformative to know that you are in a workplace (and society) which respects and values you equally!

Like John A Murphy I respect people’s right to express and live their religious understanding of marriage as they wish. However, civil society should makes laws to regulate the whole of society without discrimination on a rational – not emotive – basis. The marriage referendum proposal originated in the calm deliberations of 60 ordinary citizens – chosen to be a representative sample of the electorate as a whole. They also prioritised it as important, having listened to both sides of the argument. This I believe is the tribute to the innate common sense and fairness of my fellow citizens and will, I hope, be reflected in the passing of the amendment this Friday.– Yours, etc,

CATHAL KERRIGAN,

Cork.

Sir, – We, members of Aontas, an association of Bible-believing churches in Ireland, are deeply concerned about the current proposal to redefine marriage. We believe that the Word of God is clear and unambiguous on this matter.

Nature provides that children are conceived through heterosexual union. Only heterosexual marriage, the basic unit of society, is in accordance with the teaching of the Bible and with nature itself. Marriage therefore is not an arbitrary, man-made idea and has rightly enjoyed privileged status not alone in western society but in societies throughout the world, because of the unique social benefits it offers. It is an “honourable estate” based on the different, complementary natures of men and women – and how they refine, support, encourage and complete one another.

We believe that a genuinely enlightened nation will uphold laws that benefit the whole of society, particularly the vulnerable.

We believe it to be wrong to intentionally design families without a mother and a father. We also believe it to be wrong that notional “rights” of adults should undermine the obvious rights and needs of children to a mother and father.

We are also alarmed at the impact that redefining marriage will have on our schools. If we pass this referendum, pressure will be placed on schools to teach that same-sex relationships are no different from the relationship between a man and a woman. Already in the UK, primary school textbooks promote same-sex relationships regardless of the wishes of parents. The Taoiseach has recently stated that schools will be expected to promote same-sex marriage, if the referendum passes. We do not believe that the endorsement of same-sex marriage serves the greater welfare of children and young adults during their formative years.

If as a society we yield to the arguments for same-sex marriage we will be unable to resist arguments for further redefinition of marriage including polygamy and polyamory.

We are also deeply concerned at the significant erosion of free-speech rights which goes hand in hand with the legalisation of homosexual marriage.

These concerns are based on well-documented evidence emerging from countries where marriage has been redefined. Advocates of this measure can offer society no coherent basis for values or morality, but instead advance a morally relativistic ideology which, while claiming to promote equality and tolerance, is itself intolerant of any dissent, and justifies coercion and the suppression of conscience.

Under the Equal Status Act 2000, any person in business who cannot in conscience play a part in a same-sex ceremony may face hostile litigation. We call on the Government to give serious consideration to the recent Council of Europe committee on equality and non-discrimination report highlighting intolerance and discrimination against Christians across Europe, which called for the reasonable accommodation of individuals on conscience grounds.

As Christians we pray for those who take a different view. We urge our partner churches to show Christ’s love to all and at the same time we urge a No vote in the upcoming referendum. – Yours, etc,

Pastor PAUDGE

MULVIHILL,

Calvary Church,

Westport, Co Mayo;

Pastor MICHAEL WALSH:

Grace Community Church,

Roscommon;

Pastor MILES McKEE,

The Grace Church,

New Ross, Co Wexford,

Mr BEN SANTING: Corner Church, Tuam; Rev EDDIE COULTER: Immanuel Church, Dublin; Pastor MICHAEL AUSTIN: Grace Bible Church, Courtown; Pastor VINCENT GANNON: Christian Fellowship Church, Dublin; Pastor IAN KENNEDY: Tramore Bible Church, Waterford; The Leadership: Cove St Christian Fellowship, Cork; Pastor BRYCE CARLAW: Douglas Baptist Church, Cork; Pastor DANIEL MALSCHAERT: Tramore Bible Church, Waterford; Rev MARK LOUGHRIDGE: New Life Fellowship, Letterkenny; Pastor JAMES McMASTER: Calvary Church, Charlestown; Mr ALAN GORMAN: (South Hill Evangelical Church); Pastor BRENDAN MEYERINK: Calvary Church, Ballina; Pastor BRIAN DUFFIELD: Newbridge Bible Fellowship; Mr KEITH CHIPPERFIELD: (South Hill Evangelical Church); Pastor JONATHAN McCRACKEN: Calvary Church Claremorris; Rev JONNY McCOLLUM, Milford Reformed Presbyterian Church, Donegal; Rev PETER JEMPHREY: Covenant Fellowship, Galway; The Leadership: Mallow Street Christian Fellowship, Limerick; Pastor JOHN VOGAN: Free Grace Evangelical Church, Mullingar; Mr ANDREW COMPTON: (Pastor at Midleton Evangelical Church); Pastor TONY SIMPSON: The Upper Room, Cork; Pastor STEPHEN CHILDS: Calvary Church, Castlebar.

Sir, – It was heartening to see Fintan O’Toole hit the nail on the head when he said those on the No side of the marriage referendum were “conservative Christians who sincerely believe gay men and lesbian women should never, ever have sex” (Opinion & Analysis, May 12th).

He might have added that this view sees all forms of sexual activity outside marriage as immoral and sinful, and as evil has no rights, how are the Irish people expected to sanction this behaviour?

Having a strict traditional view of sexuality and marriage is of course an honourable and noble ideal, the living out and promotion of which is admirable.

However, some of us by virtue of our sexual orientation are unable to live up to this “one size fits all” Christian ideal and over the years have had to battle to hold on to our health and sanity, not to mention our lives, as best we could as “internal exiles” in our own community.

It is a source of dismay and annoyance to have to listen to otherwise decent generous people on the No side stoop to sleight of hand and deception in opposing this referendum. All you need to do if in doubt is read the wording of the proposed amendment and the Referendum Commission’s pamphlet. Ignore “all the sound and fury” signifying irrelevant issues. Vote Yes. – Yours, etc,

DAN O’SULLIVAN,

Bandon,

Co Cork.