May 22, 2015

Irish vote on gay marriage brings the bullies out

Patrick BissettRebel Blogger

The Republic of Ireland is to go the ballot box today in a historic referendum on gay marriage. Irish men and women are to vote on broadening the scope of the institution to include gay and lesbian couples. While other countries have legalized gay marriage by simply legislating for it, Ireland's situation is different. 

The Irish government is unable to legislate for gay marriage without first amending Bunreacht Na hÉireann, Ireland's constitution, and amending the Irish constitution cannot happen without the Irish people's express consent, which requires a referendum. As such, today's vote isn't actually on legalizing gay marriage per se; it's on changing the constitution and creating the conditions in which legislation can be drafted.

One of the consequences of Ireland's unique political and constitutional machinery is that referendums are commonplace, at least by international standards. Decisions in other countries that are taken by government are often enough given over to voters in Ireland. It was Irish people who legalized divorce, and it is Irish people who still refuse to legalize on demand abortion with five referendums held on the matter in the past 30 years.

An unfortunate side effect of Ireland's unique democracy is that it is often inadvertently divisive. Just as in previous referendums, Ireland is yet again divided along ideological lines with campaigning on both sides becoming increasingly acrimonious. The main argument from the yes side is straightforward enough; legalize marriage for all because it's fair. The no side, however, is more complex.

Some on the no side are voting no due to religious conscience. Others are voting no because they see the referendum as a means to copper-fasten recent legislation on gay adoption by changing the constitutional definition of the Irish family.

While it has long been legal for gay individuals to adopt children in Ireland, that hasn't been the case for gay couples; the argument goes that the recent change in the law, coupled with the constitutional referendum on gay marriage will not only legalize gay marriage and adoption from a constitutional point of view, it will also effectively place homosexual families on an even footing with heterosexual ones when it comes to matters like adoption and surrogacy. (Once changes are made to the Irish constitution it becomes practically impossible to repeal laws which have constitutional guarantees built into them.)

One other reason that people are voting no is simply because they're tired of the hypocrisy coming from the yes side.

Almost every imaginable slur has been cast against those who are thinking of voting no. The no side have been labelled as backwards, as bigots, and as bible-thumping ignoramuses. Their concerns, whether moored in religious conviction or constitutional legalities (or both) have been ignored in favour of shock tactics and insults. Yes proponents have screamed about tolerance yet at almost every opportunity have refused to honestly consider the rationales for voting no. They have demonized those on the no side to the point whereby many are now afraid to openly voice their intentions.

Opinion polls have shown the yes side winning in an absolute landslide; the reality, however, will be different. There's every possibility that those who vote yes will win the day, but it won't be the walkover that the polls are forecasting. At one point polls showed an incredible 80 percent approval for changing the constitution - a number that is almost laughably inaccurate.

While Ireland has undoubtedly changed during the past three decades, it hasn't changed as much as is often suggested in the media. Sure, the Catholic Church has lost a lot of influence in Ireland - but it still exists. People still go to mass there, and people are still cautiously conservative.

For proof of that all one has to do is look to the Irish political landscape, dominated as it is with centre-right politics. Irish politicians from ruling coalition party Fine Gael have expressed concern about a potentially sizeable silent no vote emanating from rural Ireland. Doorstep canvassers have experienced surprising levels of pushback from voters who, while fearful of expressing their views in public, are not afraid to tell politicians what they think.

What the polls actually show is that the yes side has been extremely effective not just in campaigning for change, but in stifling honest debate and bullying. And if there's one thing that Irish people cannot stand - it's a bully.

In some ways, the yes side has already lost. They've lost the ability to understand that what they're doing is unfair and they've lost goodwill among many Irish people. It remains to be seen just how many people they've alienated, but there's a strong likelihood that if the yes side lose this vote, they'll only have themselves to blame.


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commented 2015-05-25 20:41:58 -0400
Isn’t it just Northern Ireland (British), which voted for gay marriage? I’d be shocked if Southern Ireland voted for it. Of course Northern Ireland has Catholics but I would think most of the politicians are not thereby influencing the public. I’m just asking.
commented 2015-05-24 02:45:43 -0400
Great, so Ireland legalizes gay marriage, but still prohibits abortion. I suppose if there is more gay marriage and adoption, there is less need for abortion. Catholic silver lining?
commented 2015-05-24 00:27:37 -0400
I heard that today, go figure. Don’t the Catholics vote or what.
commented 2015-05-23 15:21:05 -0400
The Irish have voted, 62% of them, to legalize gay marriage.
commented 2015-05-23 01:51:37 -0400
“The times are a hydroponic hothouse for behaviours that perish in natural environments.” Pat, that is a brilliant phrase, that succinctly describes the solution for much of what we are being force fed.
commented 2015-05-22 16:45:17 -0400
The times are a hydroponic hothouse for behaviours that perish in natural environments. Sooner or later, the downside of these social mutations will emerge and they will be eliminated by the democratic process as unfit for survival. That is why the proponents of unnatural social organisation are tyrannical and dictatorial. Democracy is the environment of their ultimate demise.
commented 2015-05-22 13:34:44 -0400
@anne – I kind of agree with you but the problem, as I see it (and maybe I didn’t make this clear enough in the article) is that not everybody has as think skin as yours, or mine. I’m pretty confident in my ideas and beliefs and am well able to defend them; if someone wants to accuse me of something they’d better be prepared to back it up because they’re going to have a tough time. However, I do understand why some are hesitant to speak out. Nobody wants to be called a homophobe, whether the accusation is merited or not and some just can’t handle that. Many on the yes side know that full well, and have used it to their advantage.

commented 2015-05-22 11:48:42 -0400
I agree Anne, they want to make God bend his rules to accommodate evil, but that will never happen. This world has been set on course for destruction, and only those who have faith in God and obey him will be going to heaven. We have all been given free will, so choose wisely my friends, as eternity is forever!
commented 2015-05-22 10:52:20 -0400
I guess I’ll be revealing my age when I say, whatever happened to, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. Why are so many people thin skinned today? Call me a homophobe, bigot, intolerant and I’ll call you a liar. What does that achieve? I think most people like myself, against same sex “marriage”, will tell you, the main objection is, not that two people of the same gender can’t live together, the objection is in changing the definition of marriage. How can a definition change by its very definition? It’s a mystery to me why living together and receiving all the legal benefits of a married couple as with common-law relationships, isn’t acceptable. What it says to me is, they don’t simply want equality legally, they want affirmation and demand that God and everyone on the planet accepts it.
God loves them as God is love but God also makes commands, not suggestions and we are to obey those commands. To defy Natural Law is not an option. It’s like trying to defy the law of gravity.