This Friday, May 22nd you will be asked to decide whether the following new wording should be added to the Constitution:
‘Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex’.
In this referendum, you can make a positive difference to the lives of thousands of people across Ireland. We are your mothers and fathers, your sisters and brothers, your daughters and sons. We are your friends and family, your neighbours and colleagues. You can make a difference to the lives of people you love. You can make a difference to the lives of people you don’t even know. You can make a difference to my life.
A couple of days after the result of the Marriage Equality Referendum will be announced, my partner, Dave, and I will have been together for nine years.
We entered into a Civil Partnership in 2013, surrounded by our loving and supportive families and friends. In the run up to the day, people kept asking me if I was nervous. The honest answer was no, I wasn’t. Saying yes to Dave was, and is, the best decision I’ve ever made. For nearly nine years he has been my best friend. We love each other, we support each other, and we are committed to one another. We are partners and we are a team. We want to spend the rest of our lives together.
I love him and I can’t imagine my life without him.
I love that we can still stay up all night talking about nothing and everything.
I love that he is and always will be the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And the first person I want to tell everything, from my biggest news to the smallest detail of my day.
I love that, no matter how my day is, I always get to come home to my favourite person.
There are a million tiny reasons just like these that make a long-term, committed relationship work. A million tiny reasons that for most straight couples eventually add up to a marriage.
I want to marry the person that I love. But I currently don’t have that right because the person that I love happens to be a man.
Suggestions that Civil Partnership provides equivalency to marriage in all but name are simply untrue. Civil Partnership, a separate and lesser institution, by its very nature can never do this. We entered into a Civil Partnership not because it is good enough, but because our relationship is too important, too valuable not to be protected. We entered into a Civil Partnership on the understanding that we wanted our shared life together to be protected, we wanted our lifetime commitment of love publicly recognised. We entered into our Civil Partnership knowing that it was the only option open to us, but in the hope that one day we would gain access to the full and equal protection of civil marriage.
To our family and friends we are married. I speak about Dave as my husband. And people ask how married life is treating us. Our parents refer to each of us as their respective sons-in-law. Unfortunately, the law hasn’t caught up to reality yet. So, we are recognised, but we are not recognised as equal. We are protected, but we are not protected equally. Civil marriage equality matters because it will provide full and equal recognition and protection for our relationship. At its heart, it is about respect. It is about parity of esteem and fairness. It is about equality.
Sharing the freedom to marry will not diminish existing marriages, nor will it redefine marriage, nor, indeed, will it destroy the fabric of society. All we are asking for, all that a yes vote in this referendum will do, is to allow two people who love each other to have their relationship respected, recognised and protected equally under the Constitution.
Far from remaining monolithic and unchanged since time immemorial, marriage has continually evolved. Across the centuries and across the globe, the history of marriage traces a journey towards a fairer, more equal union; a union that does not discriminate on the basis of race or religion, gender or sexual orientation. Marriage has changed over time, and it has changed for the better. This referendum is one more vital step in this journey.
Marriage equality will provide important constitutional protection for our families that we currently don’t enjoy under Civil Partnership. The Irish Constitutional family is defined as a married couple whether with or without children. A ‘Yes’ result in this referendum will mean that lesbian and gay couples and the families that we form will, for the first time, receive full and equal protection under the Irish Constitution. For the first time, the Constitution will recognise us for what we are: a family.
This referendum is about the right of every child currently being raised by lesbian and gay couples right across the country. It is about allowing them to have their relationship to both of their parents recognised and protected under the Constitution. It is about the welfare of these children and the protection of their families. It is about cherishing all the children of this nation equally.
The sexual orientation of a child’s parents should never be a reason to deny a child the enjoyment of their basic human rights. But this is exactly what a ‘No’ vote would do.
This referendum is also about the rights of every LGBTQ child and teenager growing up in Ireland today. It is about telling them that we, as a nation, value them; that we, as a nation, recognise and respect their right to be equal citizens. The result of this referendum will send a powerful message to each and every young LGBTQ person about their potential to be an equal citizen. How can anyone deny them this right? It is, again, about cherishing all the children of this nation equally.
There is hardly a family in Ireland that isn’t affected by the issue of civil marriage equality. All across this country mothers and fathers know that marriage equality matters. All across this country on Friday May 22nd mothers and fathers will take to the polling stations to ensure that their children and their grandchildren will be second-class citizens no longer.
It’s up to you to decide what kind of Ireland you want to live in. What kind of Ireland your children and your children’s children will grow up in. The future your children will face is the future that we will create for them. Complacency is our enemy and a ‘Yes’ result is not a foregone conclusion. Remember that the divorce referendum was won by a tiny majority, the equivalent of a handful of votes in each ballot box. In this referendum every single vote counts. I believe that the majority of people in Ireland are fair-minded. I believe that the majority of people in Ireland want equality for their lesbian and gay peers. I believe that marriage equality will happen. But I know that unless each and every person who supports marriage equality turns out to vote, unless each and every person that believes in a better tomorrow stands up and is counted, this referendum will not pass.
The people of Ireland will have the chance to make history on Friday May 22nd. We are the first country in the world where marriage equality will be put to a popular vote.
Since the Netherlands introduced Marriage Equality nearly 15 years ago, eighteen countries have approved the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. Lesbian and gay couples enjoy the freedom to marry in 37 US states. The first same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales recently celebrated their first anniversary. All of this, and the sky hasn’t fallen in.
There is nothing to fear from two people that love and value each other. There is nothing to fear from a couple that wants to pledge to spend their lives together and support each other for better and for worse. Ireland has nothing to fear from marriage equality. Children will still play. Rivers will still flow. The earth will still turn. The sun will still shine. Scratch that one. This is Ireland. The rain will still fall.
This referendum is about allowing lesbian and gay couples in Ireland to enter into civil marriage. This referendum is about the right of every child currently being raised by lesbian and gay couples, and the rights of their families, to receive equal and full protection under the Irish Constitution. This referendum is about the right of every child and teenager who is L, G, B, T, or Q to be an equal citizen. This referendum is about human rights and equality.
I’m writing this to ask for your help. Help to create an Ireland that cherishes all its children equally. Help to create an Ireland where love is a right and not a wrong. Stand up and be counted. Stand up for your friends and family. Stand up for gay and lesbian couples across Ireland. Stand up for their families. Say ‘yes’ to love. Say ‘yes’ to equality. Please vote ‘yes’ to civil marriage equality on Friday May 22.