Yes to Marriage Equality!

Gay people have long been subjected to the nonsensical presumption that they and the activities in which they engage are unnatural; as if the concept of opposite-sex marriage is somehow more natural than the concept of same-sex marriage.

This happens to form one of the most popular moral attacks against homosexuality out there. Both types of marriage are non-static social constructs and, thus, both are inherently as natural or unnatural as each other (if one indeed wishes to invoke such a false and meaningless dichotomy as “natural/unnatural” in the first place).

The demeaning and lazy presumption that homosexuality is unnatural, which unfortunately still happens to be casually accepted by many in Ireland, has endured as an undercurrent to the superficial sugar-coated exterior of the ‘no’ campaign for tomorrow’s referendum on constitutional recognition for same-sex marriage.

For gay people (also of nature, like every other human being in existence), being gay feels like and is the most natural thing in the world. It is as natural for them as eating, drinking, riding a bike or playing sport might be for any human. Even if homosexuality was unnatural, why would that automatically render it morally wrong anyway?

Nature has given us plenty of diseases and disasters, whilst artificial creations have long given man and woman great happiness. If a gay couple are fit to raise children, why stop them? That can be entirely good and natural too. Why should opposite-sex couples be uniquely privileged, as if to suggest they will always perform an inherently better job at parenting a child?

Those campaigning for a ‘no’ assert that to say there is no distinction between the union of a man and a woman and of two men or two women is wrong and ridiculous, but I have yet to hear a compelling argument as to why such an assertion should be trusted. Is it intuitively true? That is certainly disputable, for it is a claim that relies wholly upon the rigid, out-moded and ultimately-discredited essentialist stereotypes of “masculinity” and “femininity”.

All relationships are unique in their own way, whether they are between a man and a woman, between a man and a man or between a woman and a woman. There is no reason to assume that a same-sex couple will be inherently limited to offering a child less diversity or quality of nurturing, emotion and experience than an opposite-sex couple simply because of their shared biological sex. There is no necessary reason either why two men cannot enrich a child with love and qualities traditionally viewed as “feminine”, nor is there any necessary reason why two women cannot enrich a child with love and qualities traditionally viewed as “masculine”. There is no reason why two men, if they are so inclined, cannot demonstrate, for example, the traditionally “feminine” traits of care and empathy just because tired social assumptions might deny the possibility of them providing such.

All humans are different and possess differing qualities with which they can enrich and nurture their children, whether those children be their biological offspring or adopted. Different people simply are who they are and emotional diversity is not dependent upon a combination of opposite biological sexes. It is dependent on a whole myriad of other factors. Ultimately, it is the quality of love offered by a parent or parents that is crucial to a child’s development; not the biological sex of the parent or parents. Even if, say, two men, deemed fit and suitable to adopt a child, in raising that child were to practically and exclusively impart traditionally “masculine” qualities, that would be their choice as independent parents and there is no reason to assume that the experiencing child would be rendered socially dysfunctional or become somehow deficient. To suggest that there is an ideal or perfect family unit to the exclusion of “non-traditional” types is offensive; to suggest that there might be an ideal or perfect standard of child is just downright obnoxious.

The ‘no’ side have been quick to paint themselves as a suffering and voiceless minority subjected to suppression and intimidation by the majority. This is in spite of the obligation upon the state broadcaster, RTÉ, to ensure balance of coverage. Protecting balance is vital in a healthy democracy, but one might even say that such protection has provided the ‘no’ side with a disproportionately loud voice considering support for their cause is in the distinct minority. Their voice is being heard.

If ‘no’ people have felt unreasonably badgered or that opposing views have been forced upon them in some way, that is unquestionably wrong, but it is important to acknowledge an important distinction within the general debate here. Forcing one’s views upon others is not inherent to the ‘yes’ campaign or vote. If it occurs, it occurs as a practical shortcoming and, whilst that is disappointing, the over-riding philosophy behind ‘yes’ theoretically remains one of tolerance (despite possible practical intolerance experienced by some) and respect for diversity. On the other hand, forcing your views over, onto and into other people’s personal lives, even when it has no impact upon your life whatsoever, is inherent to the ‘no’ case; it is essentially what a ‘no’ vote encompasses as it would directly impinge and enforce (or sustain a situation of) discrimination upon a certain section of Irish society who would remain without access to a set of rights that are available to most Irish people if they ever wish to avail of them.

Many, possibly even most, of those citizens voting ‘no’ this Friday will be people who may never have encountered homosexuality or gay people in their day-to-day lives, in any practical sense or for any real intents or purposes. As Dara Ó Briain recently tweeted: “The best thing about campaigning for a “No” vote in the is, even if you lose, it will make no difference to your life whatsoever.” It is perhaps easier then under such circumstances to view gay people as abstract, distant or irrelevant concepts rather than as real people with the same hopes, desires, dreams, emotional needs, qualities and faults as any other Irish person. The ‘no’ side have desperately and disingenuously tried to make this a debate about children. It’s not; it’s about tolerance, recognition, progress and equality. Gay people are citizens of our republic too and it is high time that Irish marital rights, accessible to most, were extended to them.

Unfortunately, as an Irish citizen living abroad, I will not have the privilege of voting tomorrow, but, if I could, I would be voting in favour of ‘yes’. To my fellow Irish citizens with a vote, I would strongly encourage you to use it so that we as a nation can take an important step towards finally shaking off the last legal vestiges of the stifling stranglehold the Catholic Church has had over Irish social life for the majority of the last century. Yes to equality!

Daniel has written more on this matter on his blog.

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  • JohnTheOptimist

    The so-called ‘stifling stranglehold of the Catholic Church’ has given Ireland:

    (a) An education system that achieves (based on PISA scores) far better results than the U. Kingdom, France, Sweden, Norway, U. States and a host of other countries. Look how much better Ireland’s PISA results are than near-neighbours Wales, which has long shaken off the ‘stifling stranglehold of the Catholic Church’ and comes near bottom in Europe in PISA. Ireland’s Catholic education system is one of the main factors behind Ireland’s amazing economic growth over the past 30 years, which is now resurging again after a brief interruption.

    (b) The best demographics in Europe. Thanks to a very low abortion rate and an emphasis on traditional family values, Ireland has by far the best age profile of any European country. The proportion of the population aged 65 plus is 11% in Ireland, compared with over 20% in most European countries. These countries have destroyed their growth prospects and are literally dying out by aborting in huge numbers the next generation. This is another factor in Ireland’s high growth.

    (c) Great social stability, which historically resulted in Ireland having very low levels of marriage breakup, very low crime rates and a very low per capita prison population. Ireland’s per capita prison population is about half that of Scotland, about half that of England, and about a third that of Australia and New Zealand. Of course, as liberalism tightens its grip, this advantage is fast disappearing, and Ireland is catching up other countries in marriage breakup, crime and prison population, but it was good while it lasted.

    As I posted on the other thread (how many threads on gay marriage are we going to be subjected to tonight?), very few gays have any interest in marriage. Based on the experience of the Netherlands, where gay marriage has been legal since 2001, only a tiny percentage of gays (under 5%) will get married in Ireland in the next decade. The real objective of many of the leftists in the pro-gay marriage campaign is to give voice to their anti-Catholic (and anti-religion) venom. I suspect this venom largely derives from the part the Pope John Paul played (along with Reagan and Thatcher) in bringing down the atheist Soviet Empire. Ireland’s leftists have never forgiven that.

  • Ernekid

    The Catholic Church has also given us the Magdalene Launderies, Paedophile rapist priests and generations of children brutalised by the sadism of the church

    That post has to be the biggest load of sh**e I’ve read on slugger for a long while. You’re either a troll or massively misguided.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    I never type LOL but the optimist obviously needs to have a soul full of hope. Why do I feel a Spoonerism coming on?

  • JohnTheOptimist

    You might as well say the UK Conservative, Labour and Liberal Parties have given us rapist MPs. I won’t list the vast number named in recent months, lest it get Slugger into trouble, but they can be easily googled. Sexual abuse of children in the secular UK has been on an industrial scale, completely dwarfing what happened in Ireland. What’s worse, while action has been taken against pedophile priests and many have gone to jail, there has been a complete cover-up of establishment rapists in the UK.

    Try and answer the specific points I raised – if you can.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Let’s discuss tomorrow’s marriage equality referendum instead.

  • I would never suggest the Catholic Church was wholly malignant. Nevertheless, its stranglehold – and that is what it was – did undeniable social damage to Ireland and its people.

    a) So, if the ‘Celtic Tiger’ was primarily down to the Catholic nature of Ireland’s education system (I’m not an expert in economics, by any means, but that’s just head-in-the-clouds stuff), what caused the brief interruption and the resurgence since? The presence of the education system has been a constant throughout these varying circumstances.That would lead me to think other factors were significant.

    b) Ireland’s demographics are primarily a consequence of recent stages and levels of economic development. You are aware that thousands of Irish women avail of abortion facilities outside of the state every year, irrespective of the legal status of the procedure in Ireland? Contraception is also freely available in Ireland to anyone who wishes to use it. Generally, lowering or lower birth rates are related to increasing or higher levels of economic development, which is why the Irish birth rate has been falling too since 1980:

    Higher levels of development also tend to result in lower levels of religious adherence (the US south is an anomaly in the developed world), meaning you might also see a correlation between falling popularity of reliigion and lowering birth rates/falling population, but don’t confuse correlation for cause here.

    c) Social stability? I guess that’s what you get under a stifling stranglehold… Of course there’d have been very low levels of marital break-up; divorce was unlawful until the mid-1990s. On low crime and incarceration rates, I’m not qualified to comment or fully dispute your claim, but I’d be surprised if any competent sociologist agreed with you or attributed such rates solely or even significantly to the effect of popular superstition. Do you have anything to support your assertion? Lower crime rates and greater levels of societal equality often are closely related. Iceland is an exceptionally socially stable country, yet it isn’t known to be devoutly religious; it’s very liberal (and also happens to be awash with guns). Same applies to the Scandinavian countries.

    Have you really been subjected to gay marriage threads tonight? It looks to me like you’ve been happily and voluntarily clicking into them to have a read and engage. I mean, you *could* always just ignore them and focus on something else if you wanted. A tip for next time: the titles are usually a dead give-away.

    My “venom” has little to do with the fall of the Soviet Union (I think you overplay the Pope’s role in that), but I do strongly believe in the secular ideal.

    As an aside, interesting documentary from 1967, this, called ‘Rocky Road to Dublin’, which looks at how the new southern state surrendered its post-independence power to the Church:

  • JohnTheOptimist

    Happy to do so, but tomorrow’s referendum has been flogged to death on various threads tonight. The author of this thread specifically attacked the Catholic Church. Therefore, it is perfectly valid to reply to his bigoted attack.

    Those advocating a ‘Yes’ vote are trying to push the line that only backward priest-ridden countries are opposed to gay marriage and that Ireland will be bracketed in that category and a pariah if it rejects the instructions of the establishment political parties, state organisations like the IDA, and the police, and votes ‘no’ (very unlikely to happen, of course). In reality, the vast majority of countries don’t have gay marriage, among them ‘backward’ countries like Germany and Australia. While in the U. States, nearly every state that had a referendum on the matter also voted ‘no’. I’d be interested to know which country Daniel Collins lives in. He says he lives abroad. I hope he’s not living in one of the 190 countries in the world that don’t have gay marriage, otherwise life would be hell for him.

  • You are free to ignore these threads if you wish, like I said.

    And a “bigoted attack”? I was baptised a Catholic. I have practicing family members and I completely respect their personal faith, despite my own agnostic atheism. I admire them for their faith and wouldn’t ever dare feel it was my place to challenge or pontificate to them on it. I simply feel institutional religion has no place in or influencing public life.

    I live in England. I’ve not written the above piece in the hope that I’ll be able to avail of same-sex marital rights in Ireland considering I don’t identify as gay. I would simply like to see my country take another progressive legal step away from its conservative past by extending greater equality and opportunity to our equal LGBT citizens.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    Apologies that I haven’t time before work to answer every detail in your points. This is not specifically about the referendum. But, if you are going to attack the Catholic Church (or any Church) in the course of advocating a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum, expect a rebuttal. Briefly:

    (1) I wouldn’t say that Ireland’s Catholic education system was the primary cause of Ireland’s high economic growth (over twice the UK and EU averages since the 1960s). I’d say that the good results Ireland’s Catholic-dominated education system achieves (as shown by PISA tests) is one of the factors behind the very high level of FDI into Ireland. Many multinational company executives say this themselves. But, there are other reasons like low corporate taxation. If Ireland threw the Catholic Church out of education, and completely secularised its education system, as left-liberals want, I see no reason why its PISA scores should not fall to the abysmal level of neighbouring Wales (given the cultural, economic and even genetic similarities between the two countries). The interruption to growth 2007-2011 was a global phenomenon. If you live in England, you’ll have experienced it too.

    (2) Ireland’s abortion rate is one fifth that of the U. Kingdom even including abortions on Irish women abroad). It is not a specifically Catholic thing. N. Ireland’s abortion rate is even lower. The influence of the various religions have given Ireland (both parts) a pro-life culture that other countries are currently lacking. Hence their astronomical abortion rates, which are now on an industrial scale in many of them. Ireland’s birth rate has fallen since the 1970s (as you say), but is still much higher than that of other European countries, even those with comparable economic development. In Ireland its about 15-16 per 100k. In the U. Kingdom about 12-13. In Germany, Italy about 9-10. This is giving Ireland a huge advantage. The proportion of its population aged 65 plus is around 11%, compared with over 20% in many European countries. Most eastern European countries, where the culture was formed by atheistic communism, are currently aborting themselves out of existence. In those countries abortions are almost as numerous as births, their populations are falling and the number of deaths is much greater than the number of births. These countries are literally dying. In contrast, Ireland with its young population is vibrant. If Ireland had gone marxist (or ‘socialist’ as adherents of marxism prefer to call it) in 1922, the same would have happened here. That it didn’t is partly (although not exclusively) due to the influence of the Catholic (and other) Churches. Hence the bile from Ireland’s frustrated marxists (not referring to you specifically here).

    (3) Ireland’s prison population is around 80 per 100k. In England, Scotland and Wales its around 150. Given the similar culture these countries have, their similar social structure and wealth, a reasonable assumption is that the (until recently at least) much higher levels of marriage breakdown in mainland UK are a contributory factory. However, there has sadly been a huge increase in crime since the 1960s in Ireland. It is fast catching up with the UK. I think the belief that the growth of secularism and liberalism and the declining influence of religion and family is a contributory factor is well-justified. Ireland was so backwards in 1960 that it only had 4 murders in the whole year. Now, when it is supposed to be so much more progressive and tolerant, and has shaken off the shackles of religion, it has that number every weekend. There’s progress for you.

    (4) The EU Survey on sex abuse of women (both in childhood and in adulthood) published last year showed a much higher proportion of women in the UK having been abused sexually than in Ireland. The worst countries in that respect were the super-liberal religion-free Nordic countries.

    (5) The ‘Rocky Road to Dublin’ was propaganda. You might as well watch a Russell Brand documentary for an insight into Britiain today.

    The points I am making are not specifically Catholic, but in favour of the beneficial influence of Christian religions in general. N. Ireland enjoys many of these benefits as well due to the greater influence of Protestant religions here than in more secular countries. I make no distinction between Catholicism and Presbyterianism or Methodism in this respect.

  • John Collins

    John. Thanks for researching and then making the above points. For far too long articulate so called liberals have had a free run to spread their message unchallenged.

  • No worries; I appreciate your impassioned reply. I have no problem with your rebuttal; throw it at me.

    I think much of what you raise is irrelevant and this discussion is a bit of a defensive academic tangent, mind, insofar as I’ve been critical of the social stranglehold the Church had over the collective morality of the country and the consequent conservative effect this had on our laws and constitution. That’s not to say the Catholic Church mightn’t have done or influenced good things too. Hey, didn’t Hitler have the trains running on time? (I’m being facetious, just in case you think I’m trying to draw a direct comparison!)

    Nevertheless, I’ll respond to your points where I can:

    1) How significant a factor? Have you quotes from these company executives? Low corporation tax is, by far, the most significant factor here. Why is the Catholic or religious nature of the education system so critical so as to be “one of the main factors”? Why would a secular system be inherently worse? Doesn’t the interruption – yes, a global phenomenon – indicate that there are other influences upon the state of the Irish economy far more significant than the Catholic nature of the country’s education system?

    2) The reason Ireland’s demographics are still so favourable, compared to other European countries, is because Ireland’s development has been quite unique and so recently swift. It’s a very unusual case globally, having experienced a famine that decimated the population as the rest of Europe was going through a continuing population boom on account of the industrial revolution. The developmental recovery was fairly slow or stagnant over the course of a century or more, whilst partition had the added detrimental impact of cutting the south off from the island’s industrial heart-land in the north-east. I’m not saying you’re wrong; perhaps the abortion ban, save for where the life of the mother is in danger, has an impact, but I’d be reluctant to assume “a pro-life culture” to be of pivotal significance without seeing some reputable empirical-based sociological theory and evidence to back up what you’re saying. Feel free to furnish me with some further reading.

    3) Levels of inequality are much greater in the more-urban UK, which also has lower GDP per capita at present. HIgh levels of equality and GDP per capita rates are great social stabilisers. Why exactly would levels of marital break-down or declining faith directly impact upon crime levels? Are you saying higher crime rates are a consequence of the country shedding a past moral fabric? You see correlation so you attribute cause, but I’m not convinced as to why you should do that. Economics tends to be the most significant of human motivators.

    4) Fair enough. I hadn’t been harping on too much about the abuse scandals, but that doesn’t relieve the Catholic Church of guilt for how it conducted itself in Ireland. It created a protective bubble within which institutional levels of abuse could occur.

    5) Where’s the line between propaganda (what you don’t like?) and a cultural/social/educational production/documentary (what you do like?)?

  • Sounds like some sort of irrational persecution complex there. Pure baloney. Who has been restraining yourself and John from challenging liberal opinions in the past? If you’ve felt limited, surely that’s more to do with yourself than the articulate liberals who are free to express themselves, just like yourself.

  • John Collins

    Well Dan around 1960, long you were even thought of I remember the murder of Maurice Moore and the countryside was in shock for months afterwards, with widespread newspaper coverage of the tragedy, Now there is very little surprise at sad events like this. I feel in recent years the points put forward so eloquently by John are not voiced often enough. I never used the word ‘limited’ once in my contribution, It was quite irrational of you to suggest I mentioned anything about being ‘limited’

  • John Collins

    And when they are caught they hide behind the old inability to plead lark or national security etc etc. It is amazing that no octogenarian paedophile priest, or indeed Nazi. has been judged unable to plead; unlike the Labour Peer last week. There would be no proper inquiry into what happened at Kincora House either if some people had their way. The Rochester case was not properly investigated for decades because it might offend certain people. And as late as today we see that the authorities in NI make a cock up of the Maria Cahill case

  • Violence isn’t a modern or post-1960 phenomenon. In fact, the Church/religion has waged its fair share of violence in the past too.

    Anyway, I only used the word “limited” as you seemed to imply there was something stopping yourself or John from challenging that with which you disagreed? What was stopping you from challenging this “free run”? If opinions like John’s are not voiced often enough, it’s hardly the fault of liberals.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    Thanks for engaging in civil debate with me, although we disagree on almost everything. I will be away for the long weekend, so unable to respond to your points in detail until I get back. Just to say that I agree with John Collins about the impact a murder would have had back in the 1960s. You look much younger than me, so I assume you weren’t around then. You probably think the level of violence nowadays was always the norm. It wasn’t actually. Back then (i.e. well before the Troubles) a murder anywhere in Ireland would make the news for weeks. Nowadays life is cheap. Every weekend brings half a dozen killings in Ireland, and nobody bats an eyelid. They’re forgotten by Tuesday. Something has gone radically with society when this happens. You may disagree with me about the cause, but at least recognise that something has indeed gone wrong.

    Also, as a young person, you shouldn’t swallow everything you read about how repressed everybody was by the Catholic (and other Churches) back then. Today’s liberals would like it to be believed that prior to their takeover of society, it was the Dark Ages. Far from it. If you had gone to Queens in 1966 like I did, you’d have found it far from repressed. I had the time of my life. Parties every night. But, unlike now, there were no drugs, a lot less drunkenness, and people were more responsible about sex and relationships. Hard to believe now, but the biggest society at Queen’s then was the Christian Union (a Protestant Organisation). Although a Catholic, a rather nice Presbyterian girl that I liked persuaded me to attend one of their meetings. I couldn’t believe it. The McMordie Hall was packed to overflowing. Also, among my own Catholic friends, nearly everyone went to Mass. They weren’t forced to. They went because they wanted to. That sort of world is now scoffed at and derided by modern liberals. But, it brought great social stability to Ireland (in both communities). For example, although its half a century ago, nearly everyone of my friends at university in those days is still with the partner they married then (except for a few who’ve sadly died). That sort of thing brought great social stability to Ireland. I doubt if the current generation will be able to say the same in fifty years.

  • John Collins

    Basically Dan I am thanking John for taking the time to research and put up those figures. I know violence was always there and of course child abuse was first mentioned in, of a all places a Council of the Church, as early as the Fourth Century. It is just that from 1960 on the number of incidents seems to have exploded. I agree forensic science advances and more openness to follow up abuse cases has added to the numbers but it cannot account for them all.

  • Jag

    Initial tallies now coming in – urban areas are 70-80% yes, 20-30% no; rural areas are closer at 55-65 yes, 35-45 no. Latest prediction is overall 65% yes and by the end of the day, Ireland will have joined England, Wales and Scotland (as well as around 10 other European countries) in recognising marriage equality for people regardless of gender.

  • Not a problem. More than happy to exchange ideas. Thanks in return.

    Violence isn’t a modern phenomenon though. History tells us it’s a human condition. I mean, the Church/religion has waged its fair share of violence upon humanity/society too. Prior to the ’60s, there were two world wars. Ireland was partitioned through violence and bloodshed. Such violence was, of course, on a grander scale than the petty violence we commonly see today, but to suggest we’re in a state of moral decline from some idyll… I’m not so sure.