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Only a No vote can keep biological parents at the Constitution's centre


Taoiseach Enda Kenny canvasses for a Yes vote on Grafton Street in the shadow of posters representing both sides in the campaign

Taoiseach Enda Kenny canvasses for a Yes vote on Grafton Street in the shadow of posters representing both sides in the campaign

Barbara Lindberg

Taoiseach Enda Kenny canvasses for a Yes vote on Grafton Street in the shadow of posters representing both sides in the campaign

Imagine the scene. A Catholic secondary school has 'a Catholic Week'. Every pupil must take part. Every pupil must pin a crucifix to their uniform. Every pupil must write an essay extolling the virtues of Catholicism. A few students object. Their teachers chastise them.

The story is instantly in the media. 'Liveline' devotes the whole of its show to it. Parents are in uproar. Atheist Ireland is protesting loudly and rightly that even in a Catholic school, parents are allowed to opt their children out of religion class.

The above did not happen, of course. What happened instead is that a secondary school in North Dublin held an LGBT week and pupils were forced to wear LGBT badges, write essays in favour of LGBT rights and do artwork in a similar vein. There was hardly a peep out of our media.

A 16-year-old girl who refused to wear one of the badges was told by her teacher that she was being "disrespectful" to LGBT people. (Would it be "disrespectful" to Catholics to refuse to wear a crucifix? Obviously not).

This girl was told by her teacher that she deserved detention.

Another girl (aged 14) was asked to do an art project on an LGBT theme. When she objected, the teacher said she would have to leave her convictions outside the classroom. The irony was lost on the teacher that she was the one forcing her convictions on the whole class regardless of parental wishes.

Parents representing 80 pupils have now written to the local Education and Training Board to complain.

Welcome to modern Ireland, a place where 'tolerance' is shoved down people's throats in much the same way Catholicism used to be.

English journalist Brendan O'Neill has been keeping an eye on our referendum. He is a frequent visitor to these shores, and for the record, he's a pro-abortion atheist. He is also blessed with a strong, healthy anti-consensus gene.

He has seen how anyone opposed to redefining marriage and the family has been thoroughly demonised.

He wrote this week: "There's a profound irony here: Ireland's political class calls for a Yes vote to prove that Ireland has moved on from its intolerant religious past, and yet some of that old intolerance is being rehabilitated by the very people backing gay marriage. They shush dissent and demonise their opponents as effectively as any priest used to do, only in the name of Gays rather than God."

What happened in that school in North Dublin is one example of this.

Another is what happened to Paul Barnes, who used to own the stationery shop, Daintree in Dublin city centre. He didn't want a wedding cake decoration showing two grooms on display in his shop because he doesn't believe in same-sex marriage. He was driven out of his business.

A third is what happened to Ashers bakery in the North. The owner, a Christian, didn't want to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan on it. He has now been found guilty of discriminating on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The person who asked him to bake that cake is gay, but he could as easily have been straight, and Ashers would still have said No because they don't agree with gay marriage.

What happened in the North could as readily happen down here and that's even before we legalise same-sex marriage (if we legalise it).

Let's remember that the entirety of the Yes side led by the Government have refused point blank to allow a conscience clause should this go through. Anyone who dissents from same-sex marriage because they believe in the family of man, woman and child based on marriage is to be treated as the moral equivalent of a racist bigot.

As I have previously written here, this is a campaign in which every part of Official Ireland has conspired with every other part of Official Ireland to break all the rules of fairness.

Thus, a blind eye was turned when members of An Garda Síochána in their uniforms turned up at Yes side voter registration drives.

Mary McAleese broke with the tradition of every past president by saying how she will vote today. Imagine if she had said she was voting No? There would have been an instant and thundering denunciation from the likes of 'The Irish Times'.

For all that, some unusual and unexpected people have come forward to say they are voting No. Life-long liberal campaigners and critics of the Church such as columnists Bruce Arnold and Kevin Myers and historian Professor John A Murphy have said they are voting No.

As of last Sunday, former editor of 'The Irish Times' Conor Brady wasn't sure how he would vote.

In fact, I think Brady summed up well where a lot of people are probably at today. He wants to be fair to gay people but he is also uneasy about the way the constitutional definition of the family is being changed and how the meaning of language will change.

For example, Article 41 of the Constitution, which is what we are being asked to change, is called 'The Family'. It describes the family as the "natural, primary and fundamental" unit of society. It says it is "indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State".

Currently in our Constitution the family is based on the marriage of a man and a woman. If we pass this referendum, we will be asked to believe that the union of two people of the same-sex is just as fundamental, primary and indispensable to society as the union of a man and a woman.

But society cannot continue without the unions of men and women. That is as plain as the nose on your face. Clearly these unions are fundamental to society in a way no other unions of whatever kind are.

If this referendum goes through, we will asked to believe that in all matters relating to the family, including the rearing of children, two men or two women are exactly the same as a man and a woman.

In other words, we are effectively being asked to believe that mothers are the same as fathers.

We are also being asked to believe that the biological ties don't matter. Obviously two men or two women raising a child cannot both be the biological parents of the one child. We will be giving our full constitutional blessing to cutting the tie to the other biological parent if we vote Yes today.

The Government could have done this in a better, fairer way. It could have found a way of enshrining the rights of gay couples in the Constitution without radically altering the rights of children or asking us to believe that mothers are the same as fathers and that the ties of biology don't matter.

We need to send the Government back to the drawing board and tell them to come up with a better way of doing justice both to gay people, to children, and ultimately to common sense as well.

Irish Independent