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.
This one is from Brian. He’s a political theorist working at the University of Limerick. You can find him over on Twitter.
What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? This referendum campaign feels as though it has been going on for decades, and in a way it has. The arguments tend to be similar, if not identical, whether they occur in the context of a referendum in Ireland, a parliamentary debate in the UK, or in front of the US Supreme Court.
Each and every time we hear the same arguments and counter-arguments, we see the same red herrings, dog-whistles and deception.
To borrow a line; all this has happened before, and will happen again.
It is because these debates are so predictable that we know exactly how they will eventually end: we will win.
Yet, somehow, that almost makes it worse.
LGBT people and our allies have suffered and will suffer in this campaign. We will suffer all of the harm that comes with being forced to fight for the legitimacy of our most intimate relationships in the public arena. Of seeing our lives become objects of public debate and deliberation. Of being told that we must be respectful in asking for respect. Of being forced to pretend that there is some reasonable sphere of discourse in which LGBT people’s lives matter less. If this referendum fails, there is every possibility that we will have to suffer it all over again, in five or ten years’ time.
There is something to be said for unpredictable suffering. Suffering is always bad, of course, but the anticipation of suffering can amplify it. When you know what’s coming, you dread it right up until the moment it happens. We have seen how these debates have played out elsewhere, and how this campaign has developed so far. We know exactly the kind of toxic atmosphere it creates for people like us, compounded by those on the other side who insist that we are to blame for it.
We know we will win, sooner or later, but it will be a costly victory, as it always is. This campaign has reminded us that, at best, we are fighting to live in a country where a large minority of people will have tried to deprive us of basic civil rights, and that is to say nothing of those who will be too apathetic to even vote.
If we do win on May 22nd, we must not make the mistake of thinking that we’ve emerged from this process unscathed. There will be a lot of healing to do, regardless of the outcome, and it is vital that we continue to support each other, especially once we learn just how many of our fellow citizens do not.