How the marriage referendum affects me and mine

You'd become a millionaire if you could bottle the joy and pride of the past few days as we watched waves of young people arriving home to Ireland from around the world to vote in a referendum about extending the rights and responsibilities of marriage to the LGBT community, followed by the excitement of the count as it became clear shortly after the boxes were opened that this could be a life-changing result for thousands of people. I am so delighted that putting a simple X in a box is going to make so many people so happy.

But I have a confession to make.

Over the past few weeks the campaign for the marriage referendum has been impossible to escape, on radio, TV, social media, posters. It was everywhere, and I was beset with a number of conflicting feelings about it. Not all of them noble.

Astonishment and sadness that a Yes campaign was even necessary. While I completely respect the beliefs of the no voters, I presumed that they would be a small minority. I was not expecting that a big campaign would be needed. To me it is a given that any two adults should be able to marry, regardless of their sexuality. Sadly that right does not extend to those with learning difficulties, due to the Lunacy Act. So every time you hear Irish politicians or anyone else saying that there is now equality for all, don't listen. They are lying.

Surprise that I was ignorant of the facts of the situation. I had assumed that the referendum was just about love and equality. Because I agreed with that idea - who wouldn't? - I avoided most of the coverage, but what I did read, set me straight about other important issues too.

Cynicism that this referendum may have got the nod because the Government believes that a Yes vote will be cost neutral. In fact a glut of gay weddings could even give the Irish economy a significant boost. And bring lots of joy too, obviously.

Jealousy of all the attention and interest in this campaign, when I find it so very hard to get support for services and help for my teenagers with special needs, let alone all the other issues that I care about: medical cards, poverty, lone parents, child benefit and many more.

Bored with hearing the same people say the same things over and over again in the media, shutting out most other issues.

Alienation when I think of all the effort that the special needs community puts into raising awareness of the needs of our loved ones. We never get a reaction like this. Yet, as with the LGBT community, it's likely that everyone in Ireland has family, friends, neighbours or work colleagues touched by special needs.

Alone in my alienation when everyone else seemed to be cheering on the campaign.

Anxious about the result: if the combined power and influence of all the Government parties plus the passion and enthusiasm of the LGBT community and their supporters failed to win the popular vote, what hope for the rest of us and the cause that we care about?

Hopeful that a Yes vote would change everything, and not just for gays and lesbians.

"I think we're seeing a more progressive, generous, inclusive Ireland."

So said Senator Averil Power on the morning of count day. And I found myself unexpectedly cheering. Perhaps the result will mean the start of equality for other groups too. But only if we keep working at it.

Pride that I live in a country that has become the first in the world to approve gay marriage by popular vote. I love Ireland so much this weekend. This decision really is wonderful and awe-inspiring. Even the weather approved as a big gay rainbow appeared over Dublin on count day.



But it doesn't suddenly make everyone in Ireland equal. It's the first step on a very long road. Let's just hope that the journey will continue.

Note: I'm hoping that there are other articles like this in the media today, but I needed to write mine too.



20 comments:

  1. I'm glad you wrote this. I'll be writing to my TDs about the Lunacy Act this week. And I agree with you the journey towards equality for everyone in Ireland needing to continue.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well said, and I must say that I felt the same way too.
    Aud xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. I saw an article in The Nation magazine on why gay marriage is advancing in the USA while reproductive rights (mainly abortion) are being scaled back, and one of them was that abortion (and access to contraception) usually required someone else to pay for it, while gay marriage requires minimal financial outlay for the state -- the infrastructure is already there. I think there are similar reasons why gay marriage has been legalised under conservative governments in the UK and Ireland while disability rights and other aspects of social justice are retracting: scrapping legal aid and restricting disability benefits are easy to justify on the grounds that the money goes to "fat cats" (lawyers) and scroungers, while the same people can appear to be liberal about something. In addition, there has always been the urban gay (mostly male) yuppie tendency which supports the Tory view on economics and taxes.

    Then again, in the States there is a liberal president flexing his muscle (he has done so on disability rights as well), while there is a growing reactionary white backlash in some of the southern and central states (which also accounts for the upsurge in police murders and impunity). So the two trends are coming from different sides in the conflict, unlike in Europe. Both are racing against time -- Obama only has until 2016, while the conservatives fear another liberal presidency could end up with them losing power on the Supreme Court. The Nation article didn't mention that conflict, which isn't a problem in the UK and Ireland.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for this great comment, it's really good to get a wider perspective.

      Delete
  4. Well said. I'm delighted with the vote yesterday. Right decision and I'm glad this referendum was put to the people, even if it is politically motivated. Why doesn't this, or any,Government want to be remembered for removing the Lunacy Act and for making people with disabilities more equal too?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Totally agree with all of this and can understand those feelings too. It's sad that any media about disability seems to be negative - other than the one recently that went viral about the cafe staff member helping to feed a disabled man. In that case it was still all positive about the non-disabled person and what they had done - why do we need to celebrate that?! Everyone should be brought up to want to help others. Anyhow, off at a tangent sorry. It is fantastic news of course that Ireland voted yes - my brother will be pleased :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is good news, and delighted that your brother will be please :)

      Delete
  6. Brilliant and articulate, as usual xxx

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hurray for the result but yes please to.more equality. Great post. You are not the first person I have heard talking about the 'lunacy' of The Lunacy Act recently and I will make sure to bring this issue up with my local representatives.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great news about the vote.... yet, perhaps like you, I feel sadness that people with disabilities are not acknowledged in the same way. But then again, I guess it all comes down to money. The Govt doesn't have to provide for gay couples, however, it has to open up the coffers to support those with special needs..... and that is a LOT of money we are talking about. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really am delighted for the LGBT community, but I think that money has a lot to do with it - within a day or so, the Irish Tourist Board had a campaign to welcome them to Ireland!

      Delete
  9. I think it is really important that you were able to write this and express all that you feel and not just go wth the flow of being on a high with the success of the vote. Mich x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually thought that I was being a bit reckless by posting this, but I always try to be honest and I just thought that it needed to be said x

      Delete
  10. As if there's a finite amount of compassion and kindness in the world.

    Do you really think that the "yes" campaign somehow took attention away from disability-related issues in Ireland?

    It's not a zero-sum game!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree that there is not a finite amount of compassion, I suspect the problem is that improving the lives of those with disabilities will be expensive.

      Delete