Wednesday 1 March 2017

It's not a debate if one side can't speak

Opponents of same-sex marriage don't come from another planet. They just have a different view

Eilis O'Hanlon

Illustration by Tom Halliday
Illustration by Tom Halliday

Before the 2008 US Presidential election, stand-up Chris Rock joked that the only way to get Barack Obama elected was to kill rapper Flava Flav. For the first time, a black man had the chance to reach the White House. They couldn't risk Flava running round, confirming all Middle America's worst fears about African-Americans.

A similar thought must have occurred to a few Irish people lately as they watched Celebrity Big Brother, where melodramatic blogger Perez Hilton seems to have embarked on a solo mission to undo all the good work gay men have put in for years. This man is actually bringing up a child. How scary is that? There's a referendum on same-sex marriage (SSM) coming up in a few months. Obviously we don't wish harm on the man, but if someone could just lock him up somewhere nice until it's all over, it would certainly help.

Because if the referendum is to be defeated on any point, this is the one on which it could flounder. Not marriage, as such. The arguments against that don't stand up, unless you view marriage as a religious sacrament belonging to God. If it belongs to us, then we can redefine it as often as we like. Marriage is simply a contract underwritten by the State. It makes no more sense to have that contract arbitrarily dependent on someone's sexuality than it would to give mortgages only to people who can speak Esperanto.

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