The Marriage Equality Referendum

On Friday 22nd May, we’re being asked to vote on a referendum that, if passed, will insert this clause into the Constitution of Ireland:

Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.

So, same-sex marriage, then.

This will “redefine marriage”, say the opponents. No, it won’t, say the proponents.

For what it’s worth, I think it will. And I’m ok with that.

What, exactly, is wrong with redefining marriage? We’ve done it, regularly, constantly, throughout history, especially over the last couple of centuries.

The last time we redefined marriage in Ireland was in 1995. We redefined marriage as being a permanent union between husband and wife, up until the point one or both of them didn’t want it to be permanent anymore. A margin of 9,000 people in a referendum decided that a woman didn’t have to stay married to an abusive husband, a man didn’t have to stay married to a wife who’d left him, or – get this – a couple who’d fallen out of love could separate and try to find happiness elsewhere. Novel, huh?

The time before that, in 1990, we redefined marriage to say a husband was not allowed to rape his wife. Ireland, so progressive.

The time before that was to change the age at which children could get married. To sixteen. (Note that it was raised to sixteen – it had been 14 for a boy and 12 for a girl. (This Bill to do this was passed in 1972 but didn’t come into effect until 1975, apparently.)

Then there’s the whole arranged marriage thing (Peig, anyone?), and consent, and women-being-used-as-property, and so on, going back through history.

The point is – we redefine marriage all the time. All of the redefinitions we’ve had recently? Improvements, in my opinion.

The “this redefines marriage!” argument is but one of the many shoals of red herrings that have been bandied about over the last couple of months. There may be valid reasons for voting No (although I’ve not heard one cogent argument yet), but this isn’t one of them. And there are many wonderful, genuine, heartfelt, egalitarian, humanitarian – just human – reasons for voting Yes.

I’ll be voting Yes on Friday. Please join me.

(I’ll hopefully be writing about this again between now and Friday (though I’ll be out canvassing most nights, so no promises – but in the meantime, please have a read of the wonderful Izzy Kamikaze’s blog!)

#MarRef #YesEquality #IWill

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