Recently Rory O’Neill, otherwise known as ‘Panti’, was on RTÉ’s ‘The Saturday Night Show’ with Brendan O’Connor where they discussed homophobia. During this interview, O’Neill stated that he believed some people in Irish media were homophobic. This led to the interview being cut from RTE’s online archive, an apology by Brendan O’Connor on behalf of RTE and a massive cash payout to the ‘victims’ of defamation to the sum of €85000.
These people included John Waters, who once stated that gay marriage was “potentially destructive of the very fabric of Irish society”, Breda O’Brien, who insists a child needs both a mother and a father and the Iona Institute, who are known for actively campaigning against gay marriage. This shameless censorship and the upcoming gay marriage referendum that is set for 2015 prompted me to write a piece on the worst reasons for opposing gay marriage that I’ve heard over the years.
1: “Being gay is not natural”
This is one of the more ridiculous arguments I’ve heard for denying rights to gay people. Some seem to think that if gay marriage is legalised (cue John Waters) then the fabric of society is going to be destroyed and morality will become a distant afterthought of a more ‘conservative’ time. Other ‘unnatural’ things that people are happily surrounded by in their day-to-day lives include processed food, buildings, blended fabrics, deodorant, make up, shoes, indoor lighting, air conditioning, radiators and glasses to name but a few.
If gay marriage was legalised everywhere tomorrow morning, not one thing would change in the lives of people who are not gay. Perhaps they’d be outraged that it happened, they may feel that society will indeed implode, but it will not affect the running of their lives. At all. It will, however, make a massive difference in the lives of gay people who wish to join together in marriage in front of their friends and family and have that relationship recognised by law.
2: “It’ll ruin the sanctity of marriage”
Like the way divorce has? And interracial marriage has? Or perhaps we should explore Britney Spears’ meaningful 55 hour marriage to a childhood friend or Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage to Kris Humphries.
According to Newt Gingrich, “It’s pretty simple: marriage is between a man and a woman. This is a historic doctrine driven deep into the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and it’s a perfect example of what I mean by the rise of paganism.” This was said by the same Newt Gingrich who divorced his first wife after bringing it up while she was recovering from cancer surgery, divorced his second wife who was a mistress during his first marriage, and is married to his current wife, with whom he requested an open marriage. Not exactly a shining example of the ‘sanctity’ of marriage is he?
3: “Gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed because it’ll open the floodgates for gay people being able to adopt children”
By denying gay people the right to have children, you are essentially choosing ’no parents’ over ‘parents’ for a child who will otherwise never have them. Somehow I don’t think they’d remotely care if they were raised by two women or two men if they could be part of a loving home.
Abbie Goldberg, a psychologist at Clark University in Massachusetts who researches gay and lesbian parenting, found that, on average, gay parents tend to be more motivated and more committed than heterosexual parents, due to the fact that they chose to be parents. Gay people rarely become parents by accident, in comparison to an almost 50% accidental pregnancy rate among heterosexuals. Research shows that children of gay parents may have the advantage of open-mindedness, tolerance and role models for equality. Not only that, but gay people are likely to provide homes for difficult-to-place children in the foster system, particularly older children who are harder to find homes for, minority children and children with special needs.
This brings you to a page that contains a number of links on studies that conclusively prove that there is no difference between the benefits that children with heterosexual parents receive and children with homosexual parents receive.
4: “The bible says it’s wrong”
The bible does indeed have a few verses where it insinuates that homosexuality is wrong, but using a few verses that you then exploit for the rest of your life to force your own version of morality on another person does not a good Christian make. What happened to, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven”?
The fact of the matter is, you cannot allow your own religious beliefs to influence the lives of other people, and you certainly can’t use the excuse ‘because the bible says it’s wrong’. There are lots of things that the bible bans, yet many people, including good Christians, go ahead and do them anyway. These include getting tattoos, round haircuts, fortune telling, using the rhythm method as birth control, wearing blended fabrics such as polyester, getting a divorce, wearing gold and eating shellfish.
5: “Gay people can just get a civil partnership”
This is a common one for people to say, but they do not understand the differences between a civil partnership and a civil marriage, and if they do, then it is probably because they accept that one status is inferior to the other.
‘Marriage’ does not belong to religious institutions, that is why there is a difference between ‘civil marriage’ and ‘holy matrimony’. There is no reason why gay people should be excluded from a ‘civil marriage’ ceremony. It is a unique legal status recognised by governments all around the world. It brings a host of rights and protections and it is an important cultural institution.
The Irish Government enacted the Civil Partnership Act 2010, with the first ceremonies taking place in the Spring of 2011. By the end of 2012, civil partnerships had been registered by 965 couples, and had taken place in every county in Ireland. However, a civil partnership does not permit children to have a legally recognised relationship with their parents – only the biological one. This causes many problems for hundreds of families regarding schools, hospitals, guardianship, access and custody. “Loving, committed relationships between two consenting adults should be treated equally, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Same sex couples should be allowed to share the same responsibilities, obligations and respect that marriage provides.”
The children of gay parents are in legal limbo in Ireland. Under the Civil Partnership Act, there is no provision for adoption or guardianship of children who have gay parents. There are also no provisions for custody, access, or maintenance payments for children. Also, a child’s parent may not be treated as next of kin in a hospital or school situation, because they are not recognised as a legal parent – they are effectively strangers in law.
You are of course entitled to your own opinion when it comes to whether or not gay people should be allowed to marry, even if I and many others feel that denying them this right is bigoted and unfair. However, just like people who protested the de-segregation of black and white people and campaigned against interracial marriage, you will be on the wrong side of history, because in the future gay marriage won’t be called ‘gay marriage’, it will be called ‘marriage’.