My marriage equality referendum memories are bittersweet. We did it, it passed and that’s brilliant but it came at a high price to a lot of people. LGBTQ+ people literally had to knock on doors and ask for the right to get married, which was humiliating even when the canvass was positive.
The ‘No’ side were given airtime and column inches to spout hateful nonsense and lies, but we weren’t allowed call it homophobia because “balance”. Let that sink in.
On a personal level, the realisation that bi-erasure was a deliberate tactic by the ‘Yes’ campaign and not an oversight was difficult to swallow. Bi+ and trans people were made to feel at worst, like their experiences didn’t matter and at best, like allies in a campaign that directly affected them. So many bi+ and trans people worked their arses off, despite having their critiques silenced, because that’s how important the referendum was.
These experiences meant that the joy of the result was tinged with relief, sadness, frustration and anger for some LGBTQ+ people. I am delighted marriage equality passed, but (a) it never should have come to a referendum and (b) solidarity wasn’t there for the entire LGBTQ+ community.
On Friday May 22nd Irish people will vote on whether to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples. I hadn’t planned on writing a blog post this close to the referendum because, frankly, since the campaign officially began I’ve been too angry and wound up to write anything sensible. But having written two longer than usual Facebook updates recently, I decided to combine them and elaborate here.
Two months ago I was lucky enough to get married. I say lucky not just because I am happily married to the man I love, but because the option of marriage has never been open to me before as my previous long term relationships were with women.
Paul and I had a small civil ceremony in Dublin. We invited family and close friends, chose two songs and a reading (you’ll find it here), said our vows and signed our marriage certificate. The entire ceremony took less than 30 minutes. But they were a wonderfully moving 30 minutes. Making that commitment to each other and having it recognised was important.
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.
On Monday Kerry County Council became the 14th local authority, since July 2012, in Ireland (including Northern Ireland) to pass a motion in favour of marriage equality.
With the latest Millward Brown Lansdowne poll showing that 75% of people would vote yes in a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples it’s encouraging to see our local politicians back equality on this issue. Even if it is only a symbolic gesture.
Yes, there has been vocal opposition, by some councillors, to these motions but they have been shown time and time again to be within the minority.