Political Parties and Independents Should Stand Together for Marriage Equality in 2015
North Wicklow Fianna Fáil Activist James Doyle Appeals to All Wicklow Political Parties and Independents to Unite Behind the ‘Yes Equality’ Campaign so that Wicklow Becomes an Instrumental Voice in Next Year’s Referendum on Same Sex Marriage:
In recent weeks it has been both inspiring and heartening to witness the youthful branches of Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil among others gear up in the interests of promoting the Yes Equality campaign. The campaign’s objective is to secure same-sex marriage in Ireland. This no doubt reflects an appetite for change in our society regarding civil rights for our gay community.
Last year the constitutional convention voted by 79% in favour of amending the constitution to allow for civil marriage for same sex couples. The question attracted a record number of public submissions. Meanwhile a more ‘welcoming’ and respectful approach towards the gay community is beginning to emerge within the catholic church. Two years ago the Wicklow Times found that 4 of our 5 sitting TD’s in Wicklow would vote ‘Yes’ on the issue. The most recent census reveals an almost four fold jump in same sex couples cohabiting in Ireland since 2002. National polls now indicate that as many as 76% of the electorate will support a ‘Yes’ vote. It is becoming increasingly clear that Irish society believes marriage in its current form should represent more than a privilege for the many yet a barrier for the few.
As we prepare to celebrate the 1916 commemorations together, not only will a ‘Yes’ vote act as a symbolic catalyst for a more caring and accepting society nearly 100 years after its shaky inception but it will also reinforce the aspiration towards equality for all. Think of all the other social issues lacking recognition in modern Ireland – bullying, mental health and the plight of suicide to name a few. These realities confront not only our gay community, but communities and society as a whole. Voting ‘Yes’ for marriage equality will do more than legally reflect the rights that the democratic majority favour, it will also undoubtedly have a positive impact on these other important social issues. If we work together the outcome of this referendum will be a major milestone in in our republic’s continuous journey for social justice irrespective of one’s sexual orientation, gender, faith, ethnicity, age or disability.
For these reasons I am calling on each of Wicklow’s County Councillors of all political persuasions to stand together in proposing and passing a motion to formally approve same-sex unions. The motion should emphasize that Wicklow County Council supports marriage equality for same-sex couples and believes that this will be reflected in the upcoming Referendum. This will send a clear message of solidarity to all people of Wicklow on the issue. Such an effort would also demonstrate that local government can engage with and reflect the national mood. Canvassers for marriage equality of every political persuasion should, I believe, do so together in order to highlight the message that political parties and independents in favour of same-sex marriage stand together in the interests of dignity and social justice for all. For those in favour of marriage equality this vote is not about political point scoring – the opportunity for realising the right to marry must be achieved with focus and co-operation.
There is still much to be debated and discussed regarding marriage equality. Not everyone will agree that same sex couples should be allowed to marry. My own view is that change is long overdue – our gay community should be allowed to marry. Others will disagree. That’s democracy – what is important is that a healthy debate takes place. That means a debate full of facts and free of the scare mongering and misinformation which has tainted referendums in the past. I would therefore urge all local political parties (including my own) and independents of Wicklow to collectively organize a public forum so that the question of same sex marriage can be clearly and coherently discussed by the people of Wicklow. It is paramount that those who disagree with the proposal are allowed to air their views and listened to. The goal of such a forum would be to ensure everyone is fully informed before going to the ballot box.
What is most urgent right now however is that those not already registered to vote get themselves on to the register quickly. The deadline for registering ends on the 25th of November. For a socially significant referendum such as this one, it is concerning that 1 in 3 young people aged 18 to 25 are not registered to vote. Furthermore, turnout in this year’s local elections were the second lowest in the history of the state. You can check if you are registered to vote at post offices, Garda stations and libraries or by visiting: www.checktheregister.ie.