Marriage Referendum – own your prejudices

I’m writing this post in response to “GAA Star” Ger Brennan’s op-ed piece in the Irish Independent explaining why he intends to vote No in the upcoming marriage referendum in Ireland. This piece has attracted a lot of commentary on social media, most of it negative. This was picked up the journal.ie

Mr. Brennan added the following comment

Coupled with the antagonizing view from the ‘Yes’ campaign that if you are even slightly ‘No’ or even thinking about it, that you are a homophobic and that you are anti-gay, which for me is not the case.

So with due respect to his athletic abilities, I’d like to point out why I think Mr. Brennan is in denial about his prejudices. Nobody is suggesting that Mr. Brennan isn’t entitled to his opinion but, by writing an article about his opinion in a national newspaper, he is setting himself up as a spokesperson for the No side. He’s also advocating for the no side and, therefore, trying to convince others to vote No rather than simply defending his position. So he should absolutely expect that he’ll face criticism for his comments.  I sincerely hope nobody attempts to harass or intimidate Mr. Brennan but he must expect criticism, much of it harsh. 

He is correct that the Yes side are often aggressive in their condemnation of No voters because all arguments for No feel like homophobia dressed up as a moral conundrum. It’s unavoidable in any debate that the Catholic church has long taken a stance against homosexuality and convinced countless generations of people on this rock that homosexuals were morally incorrect, if not outright evil. 

It’s the elephant in every room that religious beliefs have coloured and poisoned the debate. However, instead of arguing religious intolerance, the No side which has been supported by several Christian-value lobby group and the Council of Bishops, have decided to argue that the proposed amendment will hurt children as same sex parents will not be able to take the place of a mother and father. This is a lesson that conservative Christian lobby groups have learned since the divorce referendum in the 90s. Outright appeal to religious sensibilities doesn’t play well with the electorate anymore. 

There are already same sex couples with adopted children in Ireland. Some have had surrogacy arrangements in different countries. The world didn’t end; the children’s rights groups and adoption agencies feel that they are good parents. It’s not like we can say that all heterosexual couples are always good parents as the HSE takes many children into care. There are currently about 5,000 children in care in Ireland with the most common reason for that being neglect by the children’s biological & heterosexual parents. So the argument by the No side is that the “traditional” family is inherently better for the child, accepting that it’s not perfect.  if this was the case, you’d expect academic studies to back that up BUT THEY DON’T. 

The only large-scale research study on this question concluded the opposite.

“Children of same-sex parents enjoy better levels of health and wellbeing than their peers from traditional family units, new Australian research suggests.

In what they described as the largest study of its type in the world, University of Melbourne researchers surveyed 315 same-sex parents and 500 children about their physical health and social wellbeing.

Lead researcher Doctor Simon Crouch said children raised by same-sex partners scored an average of 6 per cent higher than the general population on measures of general health and family cohesion.”

There are other studies and they each show similar outcomes. The biggest problem for the children of homosexual parents are not their parents but the prejudices of other parents & their children who have been inculcated to believe in the moral inferiority of the same sex union.

Mr. Brennan claims we already have equality for same sex citizens in Ireland by virtue of constitutional protection. In the Independent he stated:

“For a start, this isn’t a referendum on whether we like gay people or whether they should be equal citizens according to the Constitution. They already are equal citizens. Article 40.1, which deals with equality, declares that all citizens shall be held equal before the law. We are not being asked to amend Article 40. We are instead being asked to amend Article 41, which deals with the family and with marriage.”

This is a statement of pure sophistry. Mr. Brennan is arguing that marriage isn’t an equality issue. So anyone who campaigned for the right to have interracial marriage (which was prohibited in many countries up until about 50 years ago), was mistaken in believing it was a rights issue. Stupid them. Lucky Ger Brennan has explained it all. Just imagine the sentence above was about interracial marriage and revel in its cognitive dissonance.

e.g.

For a start, this isn’t a referendum on whether we like black people or whether they should be equal citizens according to the Constitution. They already are equal citizens.  We are instead being asked to amend …, which deals with the family and with marriage.”

See what I mean? As a Yes voter I feel revulsion for this argument and that’s a neat segue into the real issue behind the No campaign. 

What’s at play here is a sense of revulsion that a gay man or woman is going to take the place of a parent of the opposite gender and that a child is going to grow up thinking that’s normal. The No side can’t say what’s actually wrong with this because

  1. Revulsion is based on prejudice rather than a rational argument.
  2. There’s no neutral study which backs up their assertion that children will be hurt by same sex marriage. None…

No voters contend the child may face stigma but that’s stigma based on the revulsion of parents with prejudice, passing those prejudices onto their children. It’s simple, don’t tell your children that homosexual people are morally inferior. Don’t denigrate their relationships or their right to be parents. Don’t prevent them from getting married in civil ceremonies. Then there’ll be no stigma. 

When nobody raises an eyebrow at same sex parents then the person of prejudice feels isolated and alone. The moral righteousness they felt so acutely is revealed as prejudice and they take a seat on the wrong side of history. I doubt No campaigners on Ireland would now oppose interracial marriage but they’re using the same arguments against same-sex marriage as were preciously seen in campaigns against interracial marriage only a half century ago. The children would be psychologically harmed, they can’t have their own children anyway, health issues, biblical justifications etc.  See here for a humorous send-up of opposition to gay marriage versus interracial marriage. 

And like before, the naysayers are arguing from a position of moral and religious indoctrination to support what is now accepted to be a mere prejudice. So I’m happy for people to vote No if they accept they’re motivated by prejudice rather than engaging in double-think as Mr Brennan has done. Proudly take your place as someone who would deny rights to others  based on that prejudice. The rest of us will vote Yes but I’ll certainly respect you more for being honest about your motivations, your fears about the threats to your own personal world view,  rather than pretending you’re acting out of altruism for the future children of unknown, but somehow gravely deficient, homosexual parents.