May 27, 2017

When is Equality not Equality? When it’s RefCom2015

Ballot Box
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 What has struck me most about this referendum is that it has been reduced to simple slogans. In this particular case, you would be forgiven for thinking that this referendum was about equality and nothing else. This is simply not the case although equality for some plays a part in it. Personally, I detest the simplification of political messages in order to appeal to the largest number of people, most of whom will have done no research whatsoever on what it is they are voting on. Remember Lisbon for Jobs, Lisbon for Recovery? Well, we all know how that turned out. What about Obama, (Change), Tony Blair (New Labour), Fine Gael (Five Point Plan), you get the picture. Simple, easily understood slogans that capture the mood of the dissatisfied masses. ‘Yes for Equality’ is just another one of the same.

Ballot BoxIf this referendum was truly about equality and nothing else it would be carried by probably ninety-five percent of those who will vote, as you will always have a certain percentage of delusional homophobic bigots in any given population. However, after spending the last couple of weeks researching the implications of the proposed amendment and speaking to countless numbers of people both LBGT and heterosexual, I am convinced that there is considerably more to this than simple equality.

Let me state categorically that I believe that all citizens of our country should be treated equally under the constitution and it is a damning indictment on our society that LBGT families have not been given constitutional recognition or protection to date. I would campaign vigorously for them to be given equality under the constitution but in conscience I can not, if it means that by doing so I may be removing recognition and protection under the constitution, from other citizens.

I believe that the proposed amendment is very badly worded and that in time, legal challenges to the amended constitution will severely limit the ability of our government to legislate in other areas, specifically surrogacy. There has been a completely inadequate investigation into the potential ramifications of the proposed change to the constitution and as is typical in this country, we are presented with a choice that will have potentially very negative consequences for some citizens, regardless of whether you vote Yes or No. Why can’t the Yes and No sides get together and demand a Constitutional amendment that works for both sides and on which we can all agree and why is it seemingly impossible for this government to get it right first time? If this were a properly framed amendment that provided equality for all citizens there simply wouldn’t be a logical reason to vote against it?

Put simply, this referendum is not just about awarding equality to a presently discriminated section of our population, is about redefining what marriage is under the Constitution and in doing so, unwittingly, redefining the definition of Family. Marriage and the Family are inextricably linked in the Constitution and by redefining the definition of one, you must redefine, Constitutionally, the other. From what I can see, should this amendment to the Constitution be passed marriage, as it presently defined in the Constitution, will cease in Ireland and all unions/families will become civil partnerships.

Don’t get me wrong, there are probably very many valid reasons as to why our present Constitutional definition of marriage should be redefined, but not as an unintentional byproduct of a desire to be more inclusive. LBGT citizens must and deserve to have, their civil partnerships recognised within the Constitution and the protections that come with it. However, voting Yes is going to open a legal can of worms the results of which nobody can presently predict.

It may mean removing the rights of some citizens (children), it may have ramifications that we cannot even contemplate at present. The fact is, nobody can tell you with certainty that passing this amendment will simply extend rights of LBGT citizens and that there will definitely not be any unforeseen consequences for other citizens. The shameful part is that it didn’t need to be this way. The government could have proposed an amendment that delivered every right that LBGT citizens are presently being denied, without risking unforeseen implications for other citizens. In a nutshell, this should of been about giving equal rights to all LBGT citizens and absolutely nothing else.

The slogan ‘Yes for Equality’ is a total oversimplification of what you are being asked to vote on. Let’s face it, if ten year old children are wearing badges in school promoting it, then they are either very very clever or the argument has been reduced to childlike simplicity. I believe that this is a disgracefully inadequate amendment that has been cobbled together without any thought as to the ramifications for other rights presently enshrined in the Constitution. When there is a well thought out proposed amendment to the Constitution that promotes equality, recognition and protection for all citizens, and one that will not cause a run to the courts, I’ll vote for that.

Incidentally, I cannot vote either way as my right to do so was taken from me (and 400,000 others) simply because I am an economic migrant living outside the state, yet supposedly still an Irish citizen. Where I ask, is the equality in that? If I could vote, I would be voting No.

WCAG 2.0 (Level AA)

ps  If you do choose to comment on this article, can you please be civil and and demonstrate that tolerance and mutual respect are intrinsic to our society and our democracy. Thank you.