My submission to the Constitutional Convention about marriage equality

There’s no denying that the introduction of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 was a big moment in the fight for equality for members of Ireland’s LGBT community.

For the first time same-sex couples were able to have their relationships legally recognised by the State. However, it doesn’t go far enough. There are still over 160 differences between civil partnerships and civil marriage.

According to figures provided by the General Registrars Office 965 Civil Partnerships have taken place between April 2011, when they first became publicly available, and December 2012.

These figures don’t include the hundreds of couples who entered into legal marriages and civil partnerships abroad. They are automatically given Civil Partnership status by the Irish State.

These people made the decision to commit to each other long term and have that commitment witnessed by their friends and family. Is their commitment inferior to that entered into by heterosexual couples? The vast majority of people would say no, it’s not, but in the eyes of the State it is. It’s a step down, an almost marriage, and that isn’t good enough. This kind of inequality is wrong. It needs to be changed.

Same-sex couples deserve the same rights and protections that civil marriage affords heterosexual couples. They are citizens of this country too and must be treated as such.

But marriage is really all about what’s best for the children, is the argument you’ll hear from the opponents of marriage equality. There are two things to say in response to this.

Firstly, not all marriages result in children. Some couples choose not to have any, while other couples wish to but for various reasons cannot. Their marriages don’t become invalid as a result of this. Not all heterosexual couples who actually do have children choose to get married either. But the option is open to them should they want it. It is not open to same-sex couples.

Secondly, same-sex couples can and do become parents. How can those who claim to have the best interests of the child at heart not realise that treating same-sex parents differently to heterosexual parents isn’t in the best interests of the children in question?

How is telling a child that their parents, be that two mothers or two fathers, aren’t as good as other parents the right thing to do? It’s not, but by preventing same-sex couples marrying, should they wish to, this is exactly the kind of signal the State is sending to children.

We’re in almost territory again. Almost marriages. Almost proper parents. Almost being treated equally. It’s time the ‘almost’ stopped.

Ultimately, Ireland is on the cusp of giving the LGBT community the same freedom as their heterosexual counterparts. That is, the freedom to decide whether or not to choose civil marriage as a way of expressing love and commitment towards their partner. Don’t we all deserve that choice?

Opinion polls consistently show that Irish people would vote yes in a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples. The latest poll from Millward Brown, commissioned by Marriage Equality, puts the figure at 75%.

I, therefore, urge the Convention to vote in favour of amending the Constitution to allow couples to enter into civil marriage regardless of their sexuality.