My column in The Kerryman. 4 December, 2013
I don’t know who I feel more sorry for; those of you with no interest in the subject of marriage equality or those of us who are very interested. With the announcement of a marriage equality referendum to be held in the first half of 2015, the longest referendum campaign this country has ever known has just begun. It’ll be drawn out and it’ll most certainly be ugly.
According to the polls the result will be overwhelmingly positive for marriage equality. That should be taken with a large pinch of salt. The Seanad referendum looked like a slam dunk too and look what happened there. Plus, marriage equality advocates have achieved one very important thing, they’ve made supporting marriage equality fashionable. There are people who’ll nod in agreement, but vote no. So, for those in favour of marriage equality, there’s no room for complacency.
Whatever anyone tries telling you, this referendum is not about a human right, nor is it really about marriage. It’s first and foremost a referendum about children. It’s about giving children the very best chance at a secure and content childhood. Every child, born after the recognition of marriage equality, who grows up to be gay, will finally grow up normal. Today they’re different as they’re not allowed the same aspirations, hopes and dreams as their straight peers.
If this country chooses marriage equality, for the very first time in our history, all of our children will be normal. For the first time it’ll be the bigots and the haters and the ignorant who’ll be the subnormal ones.
That’ll not be a mere symbolic victory for some liberal, god hating, elitist conspiracy. It’s not an attack on a timeless institution. Oh if only it were such a petty thing. If only the stakes were so low. The struggle to define what is normal and what is different is a matter of life and death. Growing up can be difficult enough without having one’s future circumscribed by arbitrary laws. Difficult enough without being defined as less deserving of fulfilment.
Gay teens die at a greater rate than their straight peers. They grow up in a country where gay teachers may be dismissed at the whim of their school. They grow up in a country where their parenting skills are derided. They grow up in a country where their desire to marry is seen as an attack on straight married people. They grow up in a country where the dominant religion would deny them the full expression of their humanity. Even more than the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1993, marriage equality will finally make possible an era where children will not be limited by the smallness of others.
This referendum is also about the children born to our gay brothers and sisters. The desire of gay people to start and raise families may not be recognised by our laws, but they exist and they’ll continue to exist. Are these children not entitled to the same status and protections as every other family? Are they not entitled to normality?
It’s going to be a long 18 months. Full of heat and noise and the tumult of unreason. It’s a campaign that’ll be watched closely by our gay children. They are about to be judged by us. If nothing else, remember that.