Voting 'No' does not make you anti-equality or homophobic
Published 06/05/2015 | 02:30
The Government has a two-fold strategy to persuade people to vote 'Yes' to same-sex marriage. First, make this a referendum on how we feel about gay people. That's why 'Marriage Equality' will appear at the top of your ballot paper.
Normally, your referendum ballot has a neutral title (like 'Judges' Pay' or 'Oireachtas Inquiries'). You, the voter, are supposed to be sovereign. There should be no manipulation. But this time it's different. The phrase 'marriage equality' is a little message from the Government, just as you're picking up the pencil, that if you thinking of voting 'No', you're anti-equality and homophobic.
That's emotional blackmail. Most reasonable people support human equality. There is also general support for civil partnership and the rights it gives to same-sex couples. A 'No' vote won't change any of that.
In fact, the main reason for a 'No' vote is that the proposal undermines the equal rights of children. Which brings us to the second part of the Government's strategy. Admitting a 'Yes' vote may give constitutional rights to same-sex couples to bring children into the world artificially, including by donor eggs, donor sperm and surrogate mothers, is not a vote-winner.
Every child has an equal right to be brought into the world, raised and loved, by his or her own mother and father. The circumstances of life mean it doesn't always happen. But never before has the State taken away that right. That's what a 'Yes' vote would mean. In the Constitution, the State pledges to "guard with special care the institution of marriage on which the family is founded".
If marriage is redefined on May 22, so also is family. Same-sex couples will have the rights that go with marriage - including the right to start a family. How can a same-sex couple start a family? For a female couple, it would mean using sperm donated by some young man in Ireland or abroad. A same-sex male couple will use the egg of some female student or some poor woman abroad. A surrogate mother must carry the child for them. And that's the last bit of mothering that child will ever have. What all these situations involve is the child's loss of relationship with one or other genetic parent. That is unjust.
The Government rushed through legislation allowing practically anyone to bring children into the world using donated human sperm, eggs and embryos. It rammed all this through with a minimum of public debate, in an effort to claim that none of it has anything to do with the referendum. But here's the connection: If the referendum passes, we're putting it all under Constitutional lock and key. If the referendum passes, the Dáil and Seanad may not in future say the best interests of a child in adoption generally require a father and mother, or limit artificial human reproduction, sperm or egg donation, to married or other male-female couples. Their hands will be tied because same-sex couples will have gained an equal right to marry and start families.
This is not a referendum on gay people. It's a referendum on marriage. Many in the Irish media have long given up the idea of being impartial reporters. The public is hectored and lectured by an elitist clique. That's why you don't see celebrities coming out for a 'No' vote. It's why 'No' voters declined to go on camera for RTÉ's recent 'The Week in Politics' programme. Doubters fear being labelled as 'homophobic'. Isn't there something unhealthy about the groupthink that got us here? But if people are reticent in public, they are immune from external pressure at the ballot box. I hope that, as in the past, they assert their authority. A 'No' vote will defend the rights of children.
It would also be a suitable response to the manipulation of the debate by Government and media elites who show little respect for the voters' ability to think for themselves.
Rónán Mullen is an Independent Senator for the National University of Ireland Constituency