Common sense is usually a sound guide to whether or not a proposal makes sense. The ideology driving the Government’s proposal for same-sex marriage contradicts common sense. It is based on a proposition that gender does not matter. But if we take the time to look around, observe and listen, it clearly matters.
It asserts that men and women are interchangeable. But they are not. Every person reading this is generated by a man and a woman. Every woman carrying a child experiences the most subtle and profound biological and emotional changes. That’s reality. They know their child before he or she is born.
A father can’t say any of this but, instead, brings a different set of emotions and impulses to the birth and rearing of children. Common sense.
The referendum on same sex marriage has been impelled through the Oireachtas, much the same as austerity, with no reflective discussion and no dissent permitted.
The consequences, set out with admirable clarity by Bruce Arnold in Same-Sex Marriage and the Constitution (brucearnold.ie), are far-reaching. These consequences have been not engaged with by mainstream political parties.
This referendum is not about “equality” which, properly understood, also celebrates differences. It’s about deconstructing marriage as a faithful and lifelong union of a man and a woman.
There is an intrinsic value in all loving relationships. But they are not all equivalent. The terms “marriage” and “family” – “mothers” and “fathers” – have very specific meanings in our lives, laws and Constitution, and for excellent reasons.
The Child and Family Relationship Act, together with the referendum on same-sex marriage – they are really one and the same – effectively extends these terms to very different relationships among consenting adults.
But they are not the same, still less so in the extent to which they vindicate the needs and the rights of children.
The full force of Government power and influence is lined up against a No vote. Large numbers of people across the country who are opposed to the Government’s agenda – or who have deep reservations – are completely unrepresented by the mainstream politics.
There is a virulent intolerance of a counterview.
This ideologically-driven "groupthink" is deeply unhealthy for any representative democracy. Members of the gay community, such as Keith Mills, who is on our advisory board, who point to the Civil Partnership Act 2010, and oppose same-sex marriage, are especially in the firing line.
Dr Joanna Rose spoke in the Oireachtas last year about the existential crisis of identity she experienced from being donor conceived. She asked: "Who am I? Who are my siblings?" It was deeply moving.
Just a handful of legislators turned up.
In January 2014 Elizabeth Howard, who was donor- conceived, wrote a searingly honest piece in the Guardian about her sense of betrayal at not knowing her father. She
was in Dublin last week along with Heather Barwick, a former activist for same-sex marriage and who was raised by a same sex-couple.
In a recent article she wrote: “Same-sex marriage and parenting withholds either a mother or a father from a child while telling him or her that it doesn’t matter. That it’s all the same. But it’s not. A lot of us . . . are hurting . . . It’s only now, as I watch my children loving and being loved by their father each day, that I can see the beauty and the wisdom in traditional marriage and parenting.”
These are the views of young women, mothers too. They have been at the sharp end of this ideology. Theirs is a voice with which the Coalition does not want to engage.
The position of a wide range of Christian faith groups, including Catholics, is very clear in opposing an amendment to the Constitution which redefines marriage and effectively places the union of two men, or two women, on a par with the marriage relationship between a husband and wife, open to the procreation of children.
In a wonderful book, Celebrating Life, the Chief Rabbi Emeritus of the UK, Dr Jonathan Sacks, writes about the myths behind same sex marriage, including the notion that "all sorts of families – dual parent or single parent, stable or fractured, lasting or temporary, male- female or single sex – are the same in their effects upon a child. No future generation will understand how we convinced ourselves that we really believed these things."
May is a very beautiful month – the month of Mary, mother of God,who “pondered these things in her heart”. We could have no better example before casting our vote later this month.
Prof Ray Kinsella is chairman of Mothers and Fathers Matter, which is campaigning for a No vote in the marriage equality referendum