Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

For my Irish friends and relatives: Friday's referendums

I'd been thinking about what to write about Friday's important vote on marriage equality in Ireland, but my old friend and one-time co-author Noel Whelan has done a lot of it for me.
Remember that those impacted by this referendum are real people whose real lives cannot be dismissed by false slogans. They are our brothers, sisters, daughters and sons, our family, our friends. They include some of our teachers, our shopkeepers, our nurses and our tradesmen. We meet them every day on our streets, in our work place, and everywhere we gather in our communities.

Remember they are the people with whom we share this country. They are of us. They and their families have a real and very human need to be recognised as equal.
I will add to this that we have had marriage equality in Belgium since 2003, and the world has failed to end. My son, who is 15, cannot remember a time when his teachers and his friends' parents and our neighbours were not free to marry whoever they loved. I think of the loving families I know - Eileen and Jo, Michelle and Elke, Patricia and Evie, Nikki and Kim, Julie and Marie, Patrick and Ramy, Charles and Hervé, Luke and Chris, and all of their children; and I wonder why people are frightened of love? (And why those who claim that they have concerns about the children don't seem as worried about protecting children from bad heterosexual parenting as they are about protecting them from good same-sex parenting.)

Less than twenty years ago, divorce was still illegal in Ireland. (The referendum passed in November 1995 but it took another year to implement.) Until the state recognised the reality of how many of its people lived, those families were told by the constitution that their family life was flawed and fake. Ireland has the same choice now, whether to acknowledge the aspirations of thousands of its own citizens to get no more than the rest already have, or to tell them that their love is worth less than other people's. It seems a pretty clear choice to me.

Oh yeah, there's a second referendum on Friday to change another part of the constitution from "Every citizen who has reached his thirty-fifth year of age is eligible for election to the office of President" to "Every citizen who has reached the age of twenty-one years is eligible for election to the office of President." That makes the age of eligibility the same as for all other elections, and also eliminates the sexist pronoun and the ambiguity of the original - does your thirty-fifth year of age start on your 35th birthday, or the day after your 34th? In terms of equal treatment for citizens it is also an improvement.

I see that there's also a by-election in Carlow-Kilkenny on Friday, Fine Gael defending the seat won in 2010 by Phil Hogan (who resigned last year to become a European Commissioner). This is the seventh by-election of this Dáil term; Fianna Fáil, as the official Opposition, have not won a single one of them. In fact the last time that Fianna Fáil won a by-election was in April 1996, before some of Friday's voters were born and when divorce was still illegal. Could this be the turning point? We shall see.
Tags: sex and sexuality, world: ireland
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