#SluggerSoapbox: A compassionate plea for a NO vote in the #MarRef…

The following essay is from Kate Bopp, who makes a passionate pitch for voting NO in this week’s Referendum in the Republic.

There is not a single jurisdiction on the planet that alters its constitution on the basis of emotive arguments that relate to adult romantic relationships. Constitutional change follows us and envelops aspects of our lives that go far beyond sentiments like love and sexual attraction. The melodrama being played out by the YES campaign is quite bizarre.

There is a tendency to reflect on dramatic and extreme events from the past and from an Ireland about which most of our younger generation have only read fleeting accounts. Present day Ireland is the place where we have no sexual orientation discrimination in politics, the arts, media, both broadcasting and print journalism, academia, sport, business, any field you care to mention.

In fact politics, media and celebrity life here have a much higher representation of LGBT people than the approx 2.6% presenting in the general population. Any assertion that LGBT are the downtrodden minority falls flat when actual proof is sought with regard to the reality of day to day life here.

This may be why many of those making spurious claims with regard to this kind of discrimination find themselves repeatedly resorting to ad hominem attacks instead of supporting said claims with evidence. There is an all pervading groupthink and consensus surrounding the YES side of the Marriage Referendum campaign, the most troubling aspect of which is not even related to human sexuality.

There are false *givens* in this dispute, not least of which is the *given* that any commentator who suggests that redefining Article 41 (the Family section) of our constitution may not be a good idea for families at all, is in fact a “po faced, bible thumping God botherer”.

There is another *given* that if you oppose amending the constitution to redefine marriage and family, you must be fearful and hateful of gay people in general. There is another *given* that if those who oppose this amendment “only knew” some gay people they would feel differently.

One of the most bizarre *givens* is the one claiming “you could have gay children, then you’d see this differently”.

But the false *givens* are not the most worrying thing about the shape that this campaign has taken. The template that has been tried and tested during the course of this campaign is the biggest worry. It is over 30 years since I first qualified to cast my vote in this state and I have never before seen such intimidation of the electorate.

There are both gay and straight people on the NO side of this campaign.

So far of the many gay individuals who have expressed concerns regarding the implications of amending Article 41, only four of the ones I know personally have said so in any sort of public capacity. When others are gently urged to do so, they apologetically plead “I just can’t come out about this”. Let’s just let that sit there for a moment…..

I wonder do those words resonate with anyone else reading this?

Listen to a heartfelt plea for a NO vote by someone who has first hand experience of the real flesh and blood & insurmountable problems when you remove gender from marriage & family. The bigger picture, spread out over her entire childhood & then into her own children’s childhoods.

I was in the room when Heather made this compelling speech. She is a real flesh & blood person. Her testimony is real and true. She is not alone. There are also many others. And those who carelessly throw away something precious and unique like family & marriage by refusing to acknowledge difference, are foolishly perpetuating a type of harm that is difficult to see at a superficial glance.

Romantic adult relationships regardless of sexual orientation are wonderful, but lives should not be stolen in order to affirm them. The biggest culprits in this sorry mess are neither the campaigners on the YES nor those on the No side though. Ireland’s irresponsible and negligent administrators and politicians must bear the heaviest burden of blame for the fiasco that is The Marriage Referendum.

Instead of returning to the drawing board and finding a solution via Article 40, which is the actual Equality portion of the Irish Constitution, our political elite instead chose to polarise the nation in an unnecessary battle that nobody wants.

Civil partnerships could be given constitutional recognition under Article 40 and there would be no requirement to vandalise Article 41 by introducing a phrase that forces a logical fallacy that will never evolve into fact in the living document that is our constitution. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has presided over this campaign like some kind of dysfunctional father who has made a pompous song and dance of favouring one child over the other.

Various cabinet members have made similar mistakes with regard to the greater Irish public. I was in the audience of a recent televised debate where Minister Simon Covney referenced consensus on the issue. The consensus to which he referred pertains only to the Kildare Street bubble in which he spends most of his working day.

And even there, there is only an outward appearance of consensus as frequently attested to by the Dail bar grapevine. Ireland’s politicians have grown even more disconnected from their constituents and have engaged in pitifully poor exchange of information on this issue. This will prove to be a grave error as time goes on because of all the articles in our nation’s constitution this is without doubt the most deeply intimate and profound.

As with much public discourse in this digital era, a lot of it plays out on social media, while I suspect this referendum will be neither won nor lost there, it is worth noting that a different tone of debate develops online.

The most objectionable and aggressive online commentary regarding the Marriage Referendum does not come from gay people however, it comes predominantly from people who claim to care about equality for all but do not even ponder for a moment about the very real life experiences of those who have been hurt by social policies that run roughshod over children’s rights.

Such commentators not only do not have credibility in this debate, they do not represent the sentiment of the majority of decent LGBT folk I have encountered during the course of this campaign. I have made friends on both sides of this campaign. I have also discovered depth I wouldn’t have guessed existed in certain people.

Particularly those who have an outward appearance other than the progressive, trendy, enlightened, urban stereotype that gets credit from former presidents over and above some of us old world country bumkins. We rural dwellers have been sold short in this campaign.

It would serve some smug city commentators well to engage with country folk and see the harmonious and amicable coexistence we are living day-to-day with our gay friends and neighbours.

I wonder if the obsession with whether people are 1st or 2nd class citizens frequentlly surfacing from various advocates of a YES vote is not simply evidence of their own latent tendency to judge? I have never heard anyone else suggest that a person’s sexual orientation should be a measure of their value as a person.

And with that, marriage has never been a measure of equality.

If that were the case, then those who are raising children outside of marriage are in some way unequal to those who are married. I do not perceive families in this way. My neighbour is unmarried and raising 4 children and I have never looked over the fence and seen anything other than a family equal to my own.

Changing the Family article of our constitution will not be a magic pill for people who struggle with their sexuality or that of their adult children. I sometimes feel that people who insist on a Yes vote due to their gay children are over-compensating somewhat by trying to make the entire citizenry affirm their own child’s sexuality. It should be enough for any parent who loves their child that sexuality is of no consequence.

It is the person that counts. Sexuality does not define us, nor should it influence our affirmation of our children’s worth as individuals. But we cannot as a nation, compensate every young gay man or young lesbian woman for the thoughtless and ignorant words of a minority of those who cannot comprehend their sexuality, by saying Yes to a lie.

Same sex unions are real. Same sex love is committed and rewarding. Same sex couples can and do make committed and loving partners and parents. But the union of two people of the same sex cannot and will not ever be “…the natural and primary fundamental unit group of society”. To this the only answer can be NO.

,

  • Ernekid

    ‘But the union of two people of the same sex cannot and will not ever be “…the natural and primary fundamental unit group of society”’

    Why?

    There’s no such thing as a perfect family, if two same sex people who love each other and want to get married, what’s the problem? It doesn’t affect anyone else. They allowed same sex couples to be able to get married in places like Britain, France and Canada and guess what. The world kept turning!

    People on the No side are firmly on the wrong side of history, future generations will look at people who opposed same sex marriage the same way we now look at people who opposed interracial marriage.

    I’ve yet to hear a good argument against equal marriage rights for same sex couples and this soapbox failed to provide one.
    This articles denial of the pervasive homophobia that is still present in Irish society both North and South is offensive. Young LGBT people continue to suffer in silence as they deny who they are to the world in fear of how people will react. Just look at Ursula Halligan TV3’s political editor who spent her entire life denying who she due to her fear about how society may react.
    http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/ursula-halligan-referendum-led-me-to-tell-truth-about-myself-1.2212960

  • smcgiff

    It took until near the very end for the mask to slip ‘… the union of two people of the same sex cannot and will not ever be “…the natural and primary fundamental unit group of society” ‘

    [Text removed – mods] Very little of the above contains reasoned argument against Voting Yes. There was a link to another person’s article, but enough with the Russian Doll debating. If you’ve a point to make then make it within your own writing.

    Then there was a reference to a change of an article, but no mention of how it would change. Really, the length of this essay and you couldn’t find room to detail your concerns.

  • Robin Keogh

    Nail on head ! Thank you.

  • “…the natural and primary fundamental unit group of society” is actually a direct quote from the Irish constitution.

    I cannot see how you can reasonably disagree with the fact that a same-sex couple can not be *natural and primary fundamental unit group of society*.

    If they were mankind would have become extinct a long time ago.
    It’s simple, basic biology.

  • Ernekid

    Homosexual behaviour has been widely observed in nature. ‘as Currently, homosexual behaviour has been documented in over 450 different animal species worldwide.’ Its pretty natural alright.

    http://www.yalescientific.org/2012/03/do-animals-exhibit-homosexuality/

  • But it is still the exception.

    Homosexual couples cannot by the law of nature procreate so if they were indeed “the primary fundamental unit group of society” society would have died out.

    It’s not a value statement or a condemnation, it’s a simple statement of fact.

  • NornIrony

    Utterly unconvincing.

  • chrisjones2

    “There is not a single jurisdiction on the planet that alters its constitution on the basis of emotive arguments that relate to adult romantic relationships. ”

    Tripe. They underpin everything as does the right to form relationships and be happy

    “Constitutional change follows us and envelops aspects of our lives that go far beyond sentiments”

    Waffle. Best read with the aid of a violin and onion

    “we have no sexual orientation discrimination in politics, the arts, media, both broadcasting and print journalism, academia, sport, business, any field you care to mention.”

    Dream on. Try sports in the south and cake buying in de Nurth

    “Ireland’s politicians …….have engaged in pitifully poor exchange of information on this issue” ie wont agree to a bullying Church and bullying minority’s standpoint

    ” social policies that run roughshod over children’s rights.” with the implicit assumption that having gay parents is bad for childrens’ rights. No its not. Having bad parents or homophobic parents may be much worse

    “We rural dwellers have been sold short in this campaign ”

    ie people in the country hate gays more than people in the city or have a monopoly on knowledge on this issue. Where is the evidence for this? Again tripe

    “their own latent tendency to judge? I have never heard anyone else suggest that a person’s sexual orientation should be a measure of their value as a person.”

    I suggest that you read your own comments above and reflect

    “I sometimes feel that people who insist on a Yes vote due to their gay children are over-compensating somewhat by trying to make the entire citizenry affirm their own child’s sexuality.”

    Again ‘over-compensate’ for what? Because they are gay and they have somehow let tem down like passing on a cancer gene? or bringing them up wrongly?

    “But the union of two people of the same sex cannot and will not ever be “…the natural and primary fundamental unit group of society”.” Where is the quote from. And who says that is what the debate is about. Its up to the people involved. Just look at all this and the responses and consider:

    1 the lack of self awareness you are showing and what seems to be your deep seated hatreds

    2 at the end of the day, what business is it of yours to stop two people in love from seeking to express that through marriage

  • chrisjones2

    So that was the one signed off by the Church. Now there is a surprise. And in millenia pas were we always monogamous? of did we not live – as some tribes do today – in much larger groups?

  • Rónán Ó’Cinnéide

    This is emblematic of the No campaign. The same people making and defending the most shallow and brittle arguments over and over.

    Evert, its been hard to listen to you and your wife (the author of this piece) and your 5 or 6 friends spend the last few months attacking me and my brothers and sisters.

    I wont hold onto the bitterness that the lies that you have directed against us have created in me. The lies that you directed against me and my ilk and then have the gall to decry us for being ’emotive’ and ‘not rational’ as you and your organisation stick up posters all over my home insinuating that I am a danger to children. Are you not tired of attacking us yet?

    Whatever the result, I wish you and your wife good things for your lives and i hope that for the sake of whoever comes after us you learn to nurture some of the compassion that we as a community have tried to fight this campaign with.

    Go n-éirí leat.

  • smcgiff

    That only holds true if they existed in a vacuum. They exist within a global community.

    Nobody is suggesting hetrosexual couples who decide not to or for biological reasons cannot procreate are not a “fundamental unit group of society”

  • mickfealty

    Just dropping in to point out that what ever you think of Kate’s argument, when she makes it here on Slugger you are bound by the commenting rules on the site. You can get them in the drop down under About.

    But you can contract them all to one thing. ‘Play the ball, and not the man’. Anyone who thinks that’s an unreasonable condition, fine. We’ll have to agree to disagree. But if you want to make your point here on Slugger, them’s the rules!!

  • Granni Trixie

    Mick

    Would find it really helpful if you informed “Sharon Robinson” of these rules – she-he is getting away with murder (in a manner of speaking) on other posts.

  • mickfealty

    Drop me a line. To be fair to Sharon she’s not exactly been shown a good example by some who know better.

  • Granni Trixie

    You can take any view you like in the abstract but when you ground the issue in reality, it is,as Mary McAleese put it so movingly, all about children and families.
    I would vote yes if I lived in the South because as a mother I am touched by the stories of rejection and having to manage stigma. Such stories confronts us with what we have done to people with man made disapprovals.

    If we cannot be moved by the emotive arguments you refer to we might as well give up – a failure of imagination and empathy?

  • canaduck

    Fair enough, but it’s an irrelevant fact and anybody who brings it up in a discussion about gay marriage is attempting to derail the conversation. Should it be illegal for married straight couples to refuse to have children? Should we forbid marriage licenses to the infertile?

    Whether or not a couple can have children is not germane to this debate.

  • Korhomme

    I’m reminded of the old Irish joke, where the strangers ask the yokel how to get somewhere, only to be told that they shouldn’t be starting from here.

    And ‘here’ is where we are today in relation to ‘gay’ or ‘equal’ marriage. We aren’t starting with a clean sheet of paper, we have to see how the ideas across millennia have baked themselves into our consciousness, even if we don’t realise it. It’s not at all easy to break these ‘chains’.

    But if we were able to, able to discard the precepts of religion, the ‘articles of faith’ enshrined in a constitution, would we not see things rather differently? And act accordingly?

  • Zig70

    The term primary fundamental unit group is nonsense. Humans would proliferate if we all slept with our siblings of opposite gender but nobody is arguing for that. Are they?

  • chrisjones2

    Ok fair comment but the lack of self awareness got to me ……….which may mean i too am not very self aware

  • The term “primary fundamental unit group” is actually a direct quote from the Irish constitution.

    Just saying…..

  • Petronius

    The no side treat couples as some kind of baby-making machine. There are infertile couples, elderly couples and couples who do not want children. I am voting yes and am LGBT.

  • the rich get richer

    I am not too bothered about this one way or the other probably because I am not in favour of marriage for anyone.

    Marriage seems quite popular with a lot of people though, so who am I to stand in their way ?

    The No proposers just get my goat. I listen to them and the more I listen the more I am persuaded to the Yes side.

    I hope the result is a Yes and I would encourage everyone to make the effort to vote. I think it may be tighter than some believe.

    So get out and vote for equality.

  • chrisjones2

    “so who am I to stand in their way ?”

    Amen brother ….and that is why its a fundamental issue of freedom to be oneself

  • Petronius

    Were still waiting for Kate to explain her 2012 tweet praising Clint Eastwoods support for same sex marriage.