“A historic day” – A Look back on a campaign

2015-05-17 11.51.40Its been awhile since I blogged and I only managed one post here during the referendum campaign itself, I felt I was playing a greater role through working with the amazing team in YesEquality Cork and Faith in Marriage Equality.

It was very tough campaign, but the result was phenomenal.

But not only was the result phenomenal, but the volunteers were phenomenal. Having been involved in Referendums and Election Campaigns in the past, I have never felt part of something bigger then me, or been involved in something that would have such a profound impact on me.

Across the campaign I was blown away by the enthusiasm of those involved in the campaign, not only from the LGBT Community but from those who were not going to be directly effected by this vote, but that they were doing it for friends, for family members or because they believed it was the right thing to do.

The Community though were by far the stars for me. It has always been described as a community, but I must say, despite having involved in Cork Pride and other groups, I never felt part of ‘community’. That changed in this campaign. They stood up, went outside their comfort zone and got involved.

2015-05-14 11.08.43At the beginning of this campaign I was worried about this. How do we get those who’s idea of a community was a pub, out campaigning. But I didn’t need to worry. Once the campaign got going they were there. They were helping prepare for canvass’s, they were answering phones, making badges, knocking on doors. The passion, the importance, the integrity, it just blew me away.

Across the country from Donegal to Wexford  people stood up to be counted. They campaigned Monday to Sunday, sun-up to sun-down, and convinced the people on the ground on how important a Yes Vote was.

And it worked. It worked hugely. The Yes Campaign managed to catch the imagination of the electorate and that was evident in the result.

On the campaign, it had some of my best and some of hardest canvasses that I have ever did.  It was often though going on the door, basically asking for my right to Marry, but some nights the reaction was just mind-blowing. Some nights the reaction wasn’t great, being told to “f**k off” or that is what “unnatural”, but the nights I was hugged or rewarded big smiles did make it worth it.

2015-05-18 19.44.42I also had some first’s in the campaign. Publishing my first Election Material, a faith based letter giving out at churches across Cork (Big thank you to YesEquality Cork for this!), and running the tally in Cork City Hall. Of course I was well used to canvassing, I had never led canvass’s before so this was another ‘first’, but one that many in this campaign can share. It was amazing out on the ground with YesEquality Cork which can be seen in all the Selfies from the campaign trail!

The result though was better then anything I ever expected. A 62% yes vote was out of this world and better then I ever expected. As anyone who say me on the day of the results (and the days after) knows how emotional I was and its only now that I was feeling ok enough to write this without crying!

What we did, as a campaign, as a country, was historic. We made many people’s hopes possible. We completed a path, that many before us laid. We can be very proud of what we did, while there are still many equality issues in Ireland to be fixed, this is one less issue.

I know I can’t wait for Cork Pride this year!

Cork Pride AGM and Preparing for Marriage Equality Referendum – Cork

Two events of interest to the LGBT Community are coming up in Cork.

pride15The first is the Cork LGBT Pride AGM.

Thank you to everyone who shared their feedback with us in the Cork Pride 2014 Survey, your options and suggestions are greatly appreciated and will help us ensure that the festival is one the whole Cork community can be proud of.

If you would like to get involved more with Cork Pride, we are hosting our AGM on the 19th of January at 7pm in the Cork Gay Community Development offices at 8 North Mall, Cork City, for directions please see https://goo.gl/maps/yaOrx

This is the first of two meetings. At this meeting Officer reports will be presented and those who wish to get involved can get a better idea of the roles.

 

The second “Preparing for Marriage Equality Referendum – Cork” is organised by GayCork.com and Fine Gael LGBT. It takes place on February 5th at 8pm on in the Gresham Metropole Hotel.

Panel Speakers:

* Minister for Justice & Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD
* Dr Conor O’Mahony, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, UCC
* Laura Harmon, President USI (Union Students Ireland)
* Brian Sheehan, Director of GLEN

The aim of this public meeting is to encourage people of Cork to become involved in building a winning referendum campaign.

This is of course very important for us who want a Yes Vote in May!

YesEquality

How do we get Same Sex Marriage? Step 1: Register to Vote

Voter Registration 6/14/08 #2
Voter Registration 6/14/08 #2 (Photo credit: John of Lebanon)

I posted on Sunday after the Constitutional Convention that it will be more than likely Autumn 2014 before we see any referendum vote on Same Sex Marriage. There will be many steps on the road to winning this referendum, but we have start at the basics. And now is the perfect time to start!

Register to Vote!

From my experience, young people and members of the LGBT people are not that great at registering to vote and actually voting. But this will be the first key step in ensuring that we can win a referendum on same sex marriage.

While there will be a vote on lowering the voting age to 16 before this referendum, depending on the Governments response to the Convention report on lowering the voting age, it is still hugely important that people are on the Register of Electors

The Register of Electors is done up once a year and while you can always register for the Supplementary Register before the referendum this can be quite rushed as you must have the forms filled in two weeks before the referendum date.

You can register to vote using this form.

Your Registered? Good, but are your details correct?

This can be a big thing. While we always remember to tell friends and the various companies we deal with any changes to our address, how many of us remember to move our vote?

This is a major inconvenience when you go to try to vote! Make sure your details are correct on CheckTheRegister.ie and if they are not, or you plan on moving, use this form to update your details

Now Vote!

Ok so you have done all that! Excellent! Now get used to voting. Make sure you cast your vote at every election and referendum and get used to the idea of visiting the polling station so you know how it all works and of course how long it takes so you can factor it in on the day of the vote!

Also remember that by voting for people who support Same Sex Marriage in the Local and European Elections will also help push it along! It is a good bit away but no harm in starting now!

But Who Can Vote?

When it comes to referendums and Presidential elections in Ireland, only Irish Citizens can vote.

British Citizens may vote and Dáil, Local and European Elections.

European Union Citizens may vote at Local and European Elections.

Non-EU Citizens can only vote in Local Elections.

I’m sure many college based LGBT Groups will be running Register to Vote Campaigns when the Colleges go back this Autumn, but it is just as important for non-college based groups whether they be youth groups, sports groups or dining groups that they urge their members to register to vote and vote!

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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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The Catholic Church in the UK to be the Vanguard against Gay Marriage?

English: A photo of the Cardinal Keith Michael...
Image via Wikipedia

The Catholic Church in the UK has stepped up its opposition to Gay Marriage being introduced in the UK. Today mass-goers will be urged to oppose any moves towards Gay Marriage in a pastoral letter from Archbishop of Westminster Most Rev Vincent Nichols and Archbishop of Southwark Most Rev Peter Smith. They argue that they must save marriage for “Future Generations”. They of course join the hierarchy in opposing this move as Cardinal Keith O’Brien last week compared Gay Marriage to slavery.

Two polls also appeared in the UK this week on this issue. One for the Catholic Voice and one for the Telegraph.

In the poll for Catholic Voice by ComRes 70% of respondents said “Marriage should continue to be defined as a life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman.” This poll seemed to have found opposite results to nearly every opinion on the subject in the UK. Thankfully Pinknews have done some analysis of the poll, which only had four questions, and shows what is wrong with the poll.

To set the record straight a poll in todays Sunday Telegraph has a poll showing 45% of respondents support Gay Marriage in comparison to 36% against. The rest had no firm view.  Excluding those with no firm view 55.6% are in favour and 44.4% against.

Interestingly only the Catholic Church and the Church of England are the only two religions to express their opposition to Gay Marriage while Quakers, Unitarians, Liberal Judaism and just yesterday, Reform Judaism wish to conduct religious same sex marriages.

Also on Monday the Times became the first UK daily paper to back Gay Marriage. It said “It would enrich the institution of marriage, enhance social stability and expand the sum of human happiness. It is a cause that has the firm support of The Times.”

It continues ”

“Opponents accuse the Government of undermining the foundations of marriage and abusing the power of the State. It was predictable that some Conservative backbenchers would deride the proposals as (in the words of one of them) “completely nuts”. But more influential figures are deploying similarly heated rhetoric.

“Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, yesterday branded the Government’s position a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”. Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has accused the Government of acting like a dictatorship. More temperately, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, maintains that changing the law to allow gay marriage would force unwanted change on the rest of the nation.”

It finishes with “Earlier ages considered that allowing women to own property was against God and nature. Changing the law abolished a gross injustice and thereby enhanced the legitimacy of marriage. It is time to lift another form of discriminatory treatment. Reforming the law would enrich the lives of same-sex couples who wish to marry in order to affirm by rite that they love and are loved in return. By that commitment, they will enrich the society and culture that their fellow citizens share.”

FG out of step with the political consensus?

History of Fine Gael
Image via Wikipedia

After the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis, Fine Gael is now the only political party in Ireland that is opposed to the introduction of Gay Marriage in Ireland. It was interesting to read that Fianna Fail passed motions in favour of both Gay Marriage and Gay Adoption following pressure from Ógra Fianna Fail and others who have been pushing for it for a number of years.

With the Fine Gael Ard Fheis approaching, William Quill blogs that it is the perfect time for Fine Gael to correct this. With Young Fine Gael supporting the issue since their (our) Summer School in 2011 and at this year’s National Conference voted in favour of Gay Adoption.

It would be remiss of Fine Gael at this point to remain opposed to Gay Marriage. As I think a political consensus and with a majority of the public in favour of Gay Marriage, the conditions are right for Fine Gael and Labour to bring this in quite easily and should do so. The start of this will of course will be if Fine Gael pass a motion in favour at its Ard Fheis at the end of this month.

While I am not a proponent of Gay Marriage, I am not as much against it as I used to be. I still believe the state should have nothing to do with the recognition of relationships, but as long as it does it should recognise all relationships between consenting adults.

(Yes William you finally wore me down on this!)

Gay Adoption? YFG to discuss motion in favour

Adoption by Choice, Erie PA
Adoption by Choice, Erie PA (Photo credit: hbimedialibrary)

Another of the motions released ahead of the Young Fine Gael National Conference next weekend is one of the issues that has been left unlooked at following the Civil Partnership Act. Gay Adoption. The motion from DCU reads as follows

YFG call on the government to bring forward legislation allowing gay couples to adopt

Currently a poll on thejournal.ie has support for gay adoption on 72%. Young Fine Gael passed a motion on support for Gay Marriage with a massive majority at Summer School last summer.

While young people are in favour of this proposition and polls regularly show  strong support for it, it will be interesting to see how this motion pans out at conference.

In a related note check out this video from the Washington State debate on Gay Marriage

Motions to be discussed at YFG Conference 2012

  • YFG proposes that an incentive for young farmers be introduced by increasing the number of training places in agricultural colleges – Laois YFG
  • YFG approves of the process of fracking as can it can prove a viable energy source in Ireland for the foreseeable future – UCD YFG
  • YFG proposes that the 1989 Incitement of Hatred Act be updated to include provisions relating to social media and social networking – Kilkenny YFG
  • YFG believes that a graduate tax should be introduced for all college graduates as a means of funding their education and the present entry fees should be phased out over 5 years. Households with an income of below €45,000 would be exempted – UCC YFG
  • YFG believes that it is imperative that the ECB renegotiates the current promissory note structure with the Government. It is in the best interests of the Irish economy, the ECB, the Euro and the European Union that the structure of the promissory notes system is changed. Failure to do so will create an unsustainable debt burden for Ireland, causing huge barriers to job creation and restricting growth in the Irish economy – YFG National Executive
  • Young Fine Gael strongly supports Ireland’s membership of the euro and the efforts of EU Government to stabilise the eurozone, and; calls on the Government to engage with other EU member states to implement real and lasting reform of the EU treaties and institutions to ensure that the dangerous political paralysis of the last two years can never be repeated. – Alfie Byrne YFG
  • YFG calls on FG to live up to its election promise and removes Irish as a compulsory subject in the Leaving Certificate – Wexford YFG
  • YFG call on the government to bring forward legislation allowing gay couples to adopt – DCU YFG

Is the demand for Gay Marriage down?

This is a question no one is asking after LGBT Noise’s  March For Marriage on Sunday. In 2009 Over 3,000 people took part in that Year’s March For Marriage. This year the number is down to 2000 (Figure from Irish Times). That is compared to the 5,000 22,000 people took part in Dublin Pride Parade and the 100,000 who lined the streets of Dublin for Pride.

Why is this?

Is it people are willing to give the Civil Partnership Bill a chance? (Despite its ignorance of children)

Is it due to the general confusion about what the bill does? (I know I have been asked questions on this)

Is LGBT Noise actually on the sidelines on Gay Public Opinion?

Are people fed up of the Marriage Debate and want a quite life for a bit?

Who knows the real answer. But it will be interesting to see how this goes on.

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“no such institution as a ‘de facto’ family in Ireland”

The above is a ruling from Justice Susan Denham of the Supreme Court on the right of access to a child of a lesbian couple. This was overruling Justice Hedigan, of the High Court, who held that ‘de facto’ families existed under the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is an interesting ruling from the Supreme Court and takes a bit of an argument away from Gay Marriage Campaigners. The High Court judgement was being used an arguement in favour, but now its over ruled.

While its a pity Gay and Lesbian Couples aren’t recognised as families, but maybe this will put pressure on the government to legislate it for it in the Civil Partnership Bill.

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This is a “momentous” piece of Legislation

Marriage by jcoterhals on Flickr
Image by jcoterhals on Flickr

Last night I attended the GLEN briefing on the Civil Partnership Bill, hosted by the Cork Gay Project and L.inc. It was a very interesting meeting and I certainly learned a lot! We were given a 3 booklets on the Bill and I am currently working my way through them and they are fascinating. The speakers were Eoin Collins, Director of Policy Change at Glen and Dr Fergus Ryan, head of Law at DIT.

A few things struck me last night during the talks by the speakers. One of those was what they called this bill. They called it “momentous”, “profound”, “substantive” and “the biggest change to family law”. A few other things that caught me were that we must “accept progress along the way” (that’s directed at you Marriage Activists) and that we need to focus on “whats in the Bill” (I got flashbacks to the Lisbon Campaign when that was said).

We are going to get this bill whether we like it or not. But this bill will do a lot for Gay and Lesbian Couples (or same-sex couples as they are called). The bill will confer rights and obligations that are equivalent to marriage. It will help to equal the playing field between same-sex couples and opposite sex couples, who at the moment, even if unmarried are better protected under Irish Law.

Just a quick note, remember that the Civil Partnership scheme in the Bill only applies to same-sex couples, while the presumptive cohabitation scheme will apply to both same-sex and opposite sex couples.

So a quick did you know about the Bill.

Did you know you don’t need to be Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual to enter into a Civil Partnership?Under the bill at it stands the Civil Partnership must be between two people of the same sex and not related (ie: Father and son, or brothers etc)

Did you know you have to take vows under the bill? Under the bill a Civil Partnership Ceremony must take place in public in front of two witnesses and vows must be said.

Did you know Divorce (dissolution) is easier for a Civil Partner? Under the bill to get a dissolution you must be living separatelyfor two out of previous three years. To get a Divorce under marriage you need to living separately for four of the previous five years. There is also no clean break in a Gay Divorce, just like in a Straight Divorce.

There are a few distinctions without a difference between Marriage and Civil Partnerships but legally there is not a whole heap of difference.

But Tax, Social Welfare and Immigration aren’t dealt with in the Bill!

And rightly so. If Tax and Social Welfare were dealt with in this bill it would have to be certified as a money bill. This means the Seanad would have only 21 days to look at the bill and the Dáil can over rule it a lot easier. It is important that the bill is being dealt in the way that is. Provision will be made under the Finance Bill and Social Welfare Bill to make changes.

As for immigration, there is a bill dealing with immigration currently before the Oireachtas. This can easily amended to provide for Same-sex couples.

What is wrong with the Bill?

The bill does have a number of deficiencies. It does not deal with children adequately nor does it deal with citizenship. These can be remedied through the stages of the bill in the Oireachtas and Senators David Norris and Ivana Bacik have committed themselves to putting an amendment on Children forward.

What is right with the bill?

The bill will give more rights in the following ares:

  • Shared Home
  • Visitation Rights
  • Succession
  • Maintenance
  • Equality (introduction of Civil Status)
  • Domestic Violence
  • Right to sue for Wrongful Death
  • Pensions
  • Ethics
  • Tenancy

The bill will amend over 130 pieces of legislation. It will allow the law to play a role when people need it most, on illness, separation and death.

This bill is needed now. It would be cruel to dismiss it for something that we might get further down the line. That is the problem we don’t know when, we don’t how, and we think a referendum will be needed. Could you imagine the COIR posters if there was a referendum on Gay Marriage??

This is one of the biggest reforms of family law to be undertaken in Ireland. Hopefully this bill will start a train of reform in Irish Family Law, which is sorely needed!

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