In the run-up to Ireland’s Marriage Equality referendum on May 22nd, I’ve invited a series of guest posters– people from Ireland or who live here, of many different backgrounds and orientations- to share their thoughts on the referendum, the campaign, and what it means to them. Contributions to Guest Posts for Equality are welcome- drop me a message.
Jennifer Harwood-Smith is a sometime science fiction writer and critic living in Dublin but longing for sunnier climes. She is addicted to her keyboard and surfaces occasionally to knit. She blogs at The Shiny Nerd.
So here’s the thing about marriage for me. I’m not really that interested. If I do get married, cool, but for me the important part was always the relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I’m overjoyed for any friends who do get married, and I do enjoy a good wedding, but I don’t feel an overwhelming need to walk up the aisle. I’ve never seen the piece of paper as an absolute necessity, and even if I do get married, I’d be inclined towards a cheap wedding and a really great holiday. But if I was told I couldn’t have it just because of who I loved? Then I’d be angry and upset, because to deny anyone the right to marry the person they love is to deny the validity of that love.
My young man feels much the same about marriage, and Ireland’s lack of proper common law spouse laws is frustrating us. For anything to our benefit, such as income tax breaks, and automatic rights which married couples have to the family home or to be at each other’s side in hospital, we have to sort it out ourselves. However when it comes to getting jobseekers, then we count as a couple and can be denied it if one of us makes too much. The reasoning behind this, apparently, is to make sure no one is penalised for having a family, and that families don’t pay more to the state than single people do. Which I will agree, sort of makes sense. This, as you can imagine, is a nuisance, but one which we have a choice over. The only thing stopping us from marriage (aside from it being impractical at this stage of our careers) is ourselves. No one would say a word against us getting married because we are a heterosexual couple. And while I love my young man with all of my heart (seriously, this is movie love, and before I met him, I had no idea that could actually be real), I don’t see why our love should be deemed more right than that of a same sex couple.
I’m voting Yes on the 22nd because I genuinely feel the right to marry, and to have all the recognition and protections granted to married couples should be granted to any adult who wants to get married, regardless of the gender of both parties.
And that’s what this vote is about: marriage and all the rights and acknowledgements which come with that. The No side’s obfuscation about children is not only intentionally misleading, but insulting to single parents. The rights of children have already been legislated for: they literally don’t come into the vote, although their parents’ marriage would certainly help with legal guardianship issues. As the child of a single mother, I am outraged at the suggestion I am incomplete without a father and as the friend of a few single parents, I am also offended on their behalf. Their kids are amazing and wonderful people, whose parents work hard to make sure they are fed, clothed, and know they are loved. Not to mention those unfortunate enough to have lost both parents; does the No campaign think they are somehow ruined?
The surrogacy sign is impressively offensive as well, as it suggests any adopted child is somehow damaged. So if we took the No campaign literally, and single parents, not to mention widows and widowers, should have their kids taken off them, but at the same time, those children shouldn’t be adopted. Basically the No side is against any and all non-traditional families, regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents, and I can’t imagine the pain their campaign is causing to single parents and their children, as well as families with adopted children, all of whom have to negotiate a system not entirely set up for their benefit.
What is at stake in this referendum is recognition: recognition that love is more complex and far broader than the love between a man and a woman; recognition that the person we love the most should be the one by our side in hospital; recognition that the relationship we are in is a legitimate one in the eyes of the state, and equal to all others. I and my young man are fortunate enough to be able to have our relationship recognised in such a way any time we want. We will not be hurt or oppressed if same sex marriage comes in, but friends of ours will be hurt if it does not. To vote No is to tell people in this country, to maybe tell members of your family or some of your friends that they are not equal, that their love is not as worthy as heterosexual love, that they are, in essence, lesser. It is cruel, and it is unnecessary.
What will be the main result of a Yes result? Well, the main result, the biggest and most important one, is we’d all get invited to some fantastic weddings which otherwise might not have happened. Society as a whole will not be harmed; it will only be enriched. I want to see all of my friends allowed to get up in front of everyone they know and love and declare that this person is going to be theirs for the rest of their days. I want to share that privilege with all of the wonderful, brilliant people I know, regardless of who they love. And most of all, I want to know that the country I live in, the one where I may someday raise a child, is one to be proud of.
So come on, Ireland. Make us proud. Vote Yes.