The Convention on the Constitution and Same-Sex Marriage – This is Only The Beginning

Same Sex Marriage
Same Sex Marriage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s vote at the Convention on the Constitution was an amazing step on the road to Same Sex Marriage in Ireland. The overwhelming support from the convention to changing the Constitution is certainly something to bolster those campaigning for Same Sex Marriage. A huge well done to GLEN, MarriagEquality and the ICCL on their presentations and everyone that took part in the panel discussions in favour of Same Sex Marriage.

The details of the vote and results are as follows:

The Convention decided to recommend that the Constitution be changed to allow for civil marriage for same-sex couples by:

  • Yes – 79%
  • No – 19%
  • No opinion – 1%

The members of the Convention were also asked what form the amendment should take. Delegates were given the option of voting that the amendment be:

  • permissive (‘the State may enact laws providing for same-sex marriage’);
  • directive (‘the State shall enact laws providing for same-sex marriage’);

On this matter the Convention decided:

  • Permissive – 17%
  • Directive – 78%
  • No opinion – 1%

A final question asked delegates if they agreed, disagreed or had no opinion that ‘having regard to the changed arrangements in relation to marriage, the State shall enact laws incorporating changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and the upbringing of children’.On this question the Convention decided:

  • Yes – 81%
  • No – 12%
  • No opinion – 2%

Full press release on vote result (PDF)

While many of us are certainly delighted with today’s result it really is only the beginning of the process towards a Referendum on Same Sex Marriage in Ireland. The Convention will send a report to the Houses of the Oireachtas. That will take about two months going by the first report issued by the Convention on lowering the voting age and the presidential term.

The Oireachtas then has 4 months to respond as set out by the Terms of Reference

“the Government will provide in the Oireachtas a response to each recommendation of the Convention within four months and, if accepting the recommendation, will indicate the timeframe it envisages for the holding of any related referendum”

So that means we will find out in about 6 months when the referendum will be held. We then have to allow for the Local and European Elections in May 2014, meaning that unless the referendum is held at the same time (could be an idea to raise turnout) it probably will be held in the Autumn of 2014. This could be a very long campaign, just like the Scottish Referendum Campaign!!

This of course raises many issues. How will TV and Radio cover it?

During the week Una Mullally raise some very valid points on this.

The main problem with how the Irish media frames the debate is around a skewed view of what ‘balance’ is. ‘Middle Ireland’, the ‘silent majority’, the ‘mainstream’, gay people are told, are not ready for something so drastic as equality. I don’t know about you, but I never actually hear that middle ground. What I hear again and again is yet another articulate gay person trying to hold their temper while they are subjected to ignorant and juvenile arguments. And I hear an opposing view, generally one from the far out end of Catholicism, blustering about children’s rights (which Civil Partnership denies, thank you very much), and trying desperately to fight against equality with arguments based on their own personal belief systems or grievances. I don’t hear middle Ireland. I don’t hear a middle ground. I don’t hear the mainstream. I don’t hear the 71% of Irish people who believe the Irish government should amend the law to provide civil marriages for same-sex couples, or the 75% who said they would vote yes in a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples, or the 72% who believe that denying civil marriage to same-sex couples is a form of discrimination*. I don’t hear the voices of teenagers and grannies who think “I don’t mind, actually.” All I hear is hate.

Constructing polarised conversations for the sake of ‘good radio’, ‘watchable TV’, ‘lively debate’, or an urge to get a radio programme or TV show’s hashtag trending doesn’t serve anyone because no real information emerges. All you come away with is conflict and division. Facts and reason are drowned out by emotional arguments and inaccuracies. It’s pointless. And while listening to Pat Kenny’s radio programme yesterday morning where the editor of GCN, Brian Finnegan, was met with bizarre anti-equality arguments from Gerry Fahey, a sickening feeling resurfaced. Because there is something more insidiously harmful going on. Broadcasters will cite ‘balance’ as a defense for allowing these views to be broadcast. But I’m sorry, there is nothing balanced about someone going on air and voicing opinions that are hateful and discriminatory. The pro-marriage equality side doesn’t do that, yet the anti side seems to have a free pass to bang on about whatever paper thin argument, conspiracy theory, or downright homophobic view they want. I am OVER it.

Gay-bashing, gay marriage, and how the media needs to get a grip – Irish Times do read the full article as it does highlight what will be a major issue during the campaign, which I’m sure will remind some people of the referendums on Abortion and Divorce in Ireland.

With polling showing that 72% of people are in favour of allowing Same Sex Marriage in Ireland any major campaign on this must take heed of what happened in the Children’s Rights Referendum last year. Polling there also showed that over 70% were in favour of that, but in the end it passed with a 58% yes vote on a 33% turnout, which is much lower then how the polling predicted it with go.

Any campaign will not only have to win the argument (which today shows it certainly can), but will have to make sure that it can get the vote out and of course make sure that young people (and members of the LGBT community), who are the largest group that back this change, are registered to vote!

That will be the biggest challenge.

It can be done.

It will be done!

This is only the beginning,

but it will happen.

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Author: Stephen

Cork born and bred, proud European and Irishman. Involved in many organisations and politics. Also writes for SpirtualityIreland.org and UCC Express.

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