Many no campaigners are declaring that the Civil Partnership Act (2010) affords the LGBT community similar rights as marriage. However, the advocacy organisation Marriage Equality has identified 160 statutory differences between civil partnership and civil marriage. Namely, civil partnership does not permit children with same sex parents to have the same rights as children with opposite sex parents who are married. Under the Civil Partnership Act (2010) a same sex couple cannot share legal responsibility for a child, this means that same sex couples cannot adopt as a couple. This means that only 'one partner can be the legal parent at any one time' (ICCL & Glen, 2012: 38). Moreover civil partnership does not afford same sex couples many social supports available to those married, and the Civil Partnership Act (2010) defines the home of civil partners as a shared home and not a family home (marriagequality.ie).
I think it is awful that in today’s society, so many people seem to want marriage to remain exclusive. Nobody should own marriage, marriage should be free. Free to all. Yet those that advocate NO are afraid of the ‘redefinition’ of marriage, as if the foundations of Irish society might crumble at the very notion of it. But the redefinition of marriage is not the only fear held by the NO campaigners. They also seem to be afraid of any family unit that is not the traditional nuclear. However, the reality of our social milieu is that many families don’t fit this traditional nuclear model. The blunt truth is, there is no singular type of family there are only families. And yet there is a hierarchy of families, traditional nuclear at the top and anything else subordinate – this to me is fundamentally wrong. Families should not be ranked, nor judged lesser because they are not the type of family you may have experienced. Another concern of the No campaigners is if the referendum is passed that school teachers will have to discuss families with same sex parents as part of the curriculum. Many children in Ireland have same sex parents, are we not to recognise these children's families because it doesn't fit with the 'fairytale idilic' held by many No campaigners?
A family is not just a mother and father; a family is so much more. It includes grandparents and great grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunties, cousins, in-laws and so on. Moreover, a family is not just parent(s) and child(ren). There are many heterosexual married couples without children, whether by choice or misfortune, are they not a family? Are they positioned subordinately on the hierarchy of families, below families with children? That certainly seems to be the message by many of those advocating a NO.
What this referendum has highlighted to me is the level of entrenchment of traditional sex role attitudes and narrow notions of gender normativity held by so many in Ireland. It also demonstrates the deep-rooted prejudice held by many toward any family outside of the ‘normative’ nuclear unit. I find this level of entrenchment and blinkeredness sad and disappointing.
I have friends and family who are gay. I know many others who are bi-sexual and transgendered. I would like them to be able to enjoy civil marriage as I do. To have their love legitimately and legally recognized through marriage in the eyes of the State. To be afforded the same legal rights as anyone else who is married. To have the opportunity to celebrate their love through a civil marriage ceremony in the company of their family and friends. I hope that May 22nd brings a wave of positive change to the shores of Ireland, a change towards a more inclusive, fairer and just society; where we are more opening in our thinking toward families and love. I am voting YES, and I hope you do too.
© Clay Darcy, May 2015.
All views expressed are my own.
Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) (2012) 'Know Your Rights - The Rights and Obligations of Civil Partners and other Same Sex Couples'. Url: http://www.glen.ie/attachments/Know_Your_Rights_-_Civil_Partnership.pdf [accessed 12.05.2015].
Marriage Referendum, Referendum Commission. Url: http://refcom2015.ie/marriage/ [accessed 12.05.2015]
Marriage V Civil Partnership FAQs, Marriagequality.ie. Url: http://www.marriagequality.ie/getinformed/marriage/faqs.html [accessed 12.05.2015]