The marriage equality referendum on 22 May is purely about equality. Nothing else.
On a more personal note, to me it is about my family. It is about my family having the same rights as anyone else’s. On the 7 July 2007 my mother married Elaine, one of the loveliest people I know. That marriage is not legally recognised as being equal to the marriage of a straight couple. It is deemed inferior. So let me explain what I have learnt from their marriage and relationship in general. I have seen what a strong relationship is and how it can enrich the lives of two people. I have seen what it is to respect your partner at all times and to be given that respect in return. I have seen what it is to be a pair of complete brats and just how important it is to laugh together. I have seen what it is to support your partner, through the death of a parent and be their strength when they didn’t feel like they had enough of their own. I have seen what it is to encourage the best qualities in each other and support each other’s life decisions. I have seen what it is to compromise about the little things because your relationship is more important than petty trivialities. I have seen what it is to tolerate someone drumming in the house and to accept someone’s ridiculously huge tea-pot collection. I have also seen what it is to be yourself and do everything you can not to internalise social presumptions about yourself based on sexuality, gender, etc.
In my home you have to have a thick skin. You have to be able to laugh at yourself (and pretty much everyone else) but when you have an issue you are given support, ridiculous amounts of tea (as long as it’s made in the only pot that’s actually used for tea), brown bread and hugs until you have to do that awkward wriggling away because you can’t really breath properly. My niece, Robyn, is one lucky little lady to have such doting grannies. She has no idea what’s in store for her.
So hopefully it’s easy to see how I could be confused as to how my family and my mam and Elaine’s commitment to each other cheapens or threatens anybody else’s marriage. How are two people who love each other any less deserving of the rights taken for granted by so many? I have never heard an argument against marriage equality that has made me understand this or even really made much sense. Mainly because there isn’t one.
This referendum is so important but also, in a sense, bizarre. Nobody has ever voted on whether or not I could marry my partner. I have never had to sit down and explain my sexuality or argue that my partner and I deserve the same rights as any other couple. That would seem ridiculous.
The No campaign has reduced relationships to sex acts. Now, I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure no child wants to think about what their parents get up to in the sack. So why is this relevant? Their relationship is not their sexual preferences. That’s not what we’re voting for. If we were then every straight couple would be made to sign a contract promising not to engage in sex acts that could be viewed as ungodly before the excitement of their first night together once they’d wed.
I am fed up with listening to excuses that justify discrimination. I don’t feel that it is ever excusable. My mother was in her 40s when she came out to her mother, then in her 80s. It was one of the hardest things she ever had to do and she didn’t know if she would be disowned. My granny’s reaction was amazing. “Sure at my age what would I be worrying about a thing like that for?” If my religious, elderly grandmother could accept their relationship and see Elaine as one of her own daughters then I don’t see how we can make excuses for people’s ignorance. To reiterate, it is not a matter of age or opinion. It is a matter of equality.
Yet there are still too many people terrified to come out. There are still too many suicides. This vote is a massive step forward for all those people. A yes vote says that you are normal, you are accepted, you are loved, you are free to be who you are, you are worth as much as anyone, you are deserving of love, you are equal.
I’ve been lucky, nobody has ever reacted that badly about my mam’s sexuality. I think this is because I surround myself with decent people but also because of my attitude towards it. This attitude I believe has been nurtured by two of the strongest women in my life, my mother, Majella, and her partner, Elaine. I love you both.
This Post Was Written By Aoife Madden