Sunday 31 July 2016

Don't use our children as shields to protect status quo

The Helen Lovejoy argument against gay adoption is simply discrimination in a 'caring' guise

Published 05/01/2014 | 02:30

The same sex marriage scene in the advertisement
The same sex marriage scene in the advertisement

SHOULD we be embarrassed? The people marketing Coca-Cola don't think we're sophisticated enough to handle an advert that includes a same-sex marriage scene.

  • Go To

 In a European-wide TV campaign called 'Reasons to Believe', the last scene airing in most countries shows a male gay couple getting married -- but in Ireland this has been replaced by an inter-racial couple.

The reason? According to the Coke guys, it's because same-sex marriage isn't legal yet in Ireland, ergo they can't show it on the telly.

No, it doesn't make sense to me either. Nor to Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer, who said last week: "I would be advocating that they should reinstate that part of the ad . . . they shouldn't be marginalising or alienating or discriminating against any person on the island."

And maybe he's right. It seems a bit draconian to assume that we can't handle seeing a same-sex marriage in a Coke ad -- just in case everyone would want one afterwards, perhaps?

But then again, in the big scheme of things, it's not such a big deal is it? Eamon Gilmore is on record -- and repeatedly quoted -- as saying that same-sex marriage is "the civil rights issue of our generation".

Really? As I'm writing this a storm is raging outside and I can hear the freezing rain pouring down in torrents.

I know that there are increasing numbers of people lying out in that rain and wind; sick, cold and desperate, with no jobs, no homes, no medical care and little likelihood of acquiring any of these in the near future.

Surely that's a civil rights issue for our generation?

According to the Taoiseach, "the single-biggest issue is jobs and employment".

And if we ask parents of terminally ill children whose medical cards have been rescinded, they would probably say -- with perfect reason -- that their child's right to medical care is also a civil rights issue.

Ditto, rape victims who are denied the right to terminate a foetus. And what about those desperate refugees kept in virtual imprisonment in substandard "camps"? And. . . You get my point?

If we go down the "whataboutery" route we could be here all day. Perhaps if Gilmore had said "a" civil rights issue instead of "the", he wouldn't have come in for so much lampooning.

However, bottom line, we can "what-about" all the other important and unjust issues that Irish society needs to urgently tackle but none of it actually takes away from the fact that same-sex marriage is also a civil rights issue, one which -- if we wish to continue striving to be a genuinely enlightened, democratic and just society -- we need to address.

And that's exactly what we're doing isn't it?

We've been promised a referendum in 2015 on whether we want to redefine the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

Currently public opinion would seem to be massively in favour of a 'Yes' vote: with recent polls suggesting over 76 per cent of the voting population in favour.

But some of our politicians seem to be lagging behind public sentiment, with a sizeable rump of both FF and FG not as sure about the issue as some of their Labour or independent colleagues.

This was articulated last week in a Sunday newspaper by Senator Fidelma Healy Eames when she said: "Personally, I have an open mind on the issue of gay marriage.

"However, gay adoption raises a number of concerns in relation to how we rear children and the dangers of commodifying children."

This reference to concerns about children in relation to same- sex adoption is akin to the "Helen Lovejoy defence" (see Alan Flanagan's Marriage Equality, The Iona Institute and Helen Lovejoy Syndrome), Lovejoy being a character in The Simpsons who, when rational argument had failed her, screeched, "Won't someone please think of the children!"

Hearing that Healy Eames has an "open mind on the issue of gay marriage" isn't exactly news.

If you look at her website you'll find a link to a speech she made in the Seanad some years ago on this very issue (and I thank blogger Donal O'Keeffe for drawing my attention to this).

She was adamant that her own heterosexual marriage would not be remotely threatened in the least by the introduction of same-sex marriage. But she didn't feel the bill went far enough in its protection of children. She said: "There are shortcomings in the bill. . . We have an obligation to ensure that children who have parents of the same sex are treated equally in the eyes of the State.

"The bill does not address the issue of adoption and guardianship, leaving the law unchanged for same-sex couples. That is a major flaw. . ."

And Labour's Eamon Gilmore obviously agrees with her, which is why he would like to correct the current anomaly in our adoption laws, which allows single LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people to adopt, and married heterosexual couples to adopt, but not LGBT couples.

This is obviously most unjust, not just to stable, loving LGBT couples who would like the chance to adopt children but to the many living children who are being raised by LGBT couples.

You've probably noticed that Healy Eames seems to have done a bit of a U-turn between 2010 and last week because, the children she and others -- who are fond of using the "Helen Lovejoy defence" -- are thinking of are hypothetical, as yet unborn children who, God forbid, may be placed with a loving, married LGBT couple if, when born, they need to be adopted.

The problem with using the "Won't anyone think of the children" defence when arguing against adoption rights for LGBT couples is that, because there isn't a shred of evidence to support your argument (on the contrary, it discriminates against children already born) -- what you're really saying can be interpreted as: "Those gays can get married and do whatever it is they like to each other but I wouldn't trust some of them near a child."

No doubt those who use that argument will declare themselves affronted by such an accusation, but essentially, that's the bottom line.

It's discrimination masking itself as care of children and it certainly needs to be called out for what it is. Our children deserve better.

Irish Independent

Read More