Marriage Equality Referendum: Why I’ll tick that níl box in a pink glitter pen

Marriage is a legal institution with a purpose: Children. For that reason it is the union of a man and a woman and anything else is something else, argues Paddy Manning.

Marriage Equality Referendum: Why I’ll tick that níl box in a pink glitter pen

I AM a gay man. I know just how real a gay person’s love is, how deeply we love physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and how great our heartbreak at loss.

I also know that I and a boyfriend, like every other same-sex couple, cannot have our own children. Elton John and his partner didn’t have children: Elton John and a woman did.

Every same-sex couple with children has — at least one — parent outside of that family. This fundamental difference from a gendered couple with children makes equal treatment in law either impossible or an exercise in depriving children of rights. It is a fundamental difference that makes this massive legal change very wrong.

READ MORE: AUDIO: Donegal priest to vote Yes in Marriage Equality Referendum

In the rush to be cool and please Twitter, no consideration has been given to how a de-gendered marriage will affect children, child custody, adoption, assisted human reproduction, or the rights of unmarried parents.

We are having adult-centric debate on marriage when we should be putting children, their rights, needs, and outcomes at the centre of the discussion. Marriage, we are told, is not about children.

Bunreacht na hÉireann begs to disagree. That such a claim can even be made, outside of a comedy sketch, shows us the depths to which un-interrogated mumbo-jumbo can sink. The parrot is not just dead, it stinks.

Marriage is a legal institution with a purpose: Children. For that reason marriage is the union of a man and a woman. Not alone is anything else something else, but same-sex marriage changes family law and diminishes children’s rights while expanding the power of the State for no good reason.

In a world with longer lives and shorter relationships, what will little Eoin’s fate be after his unmarried mum and dad separate, after his mother’s marriage to Julia ends, after Julia’s marries Lindsey?

READ MORE: Marriage equality: Why I won’t be saying ‘I do’ to gay marriage

Who gets custody, what are his rights to his father under an altered Constitution that gives primacy to marriage but now ignores biology?

Will he have his dad? Like Orwell’s sheep the politicians drown these questions out by chanting “Equality, Equality…” but citizen voters need to think even when politicians do not.

How can it be controversial to say that in the main a child does better with his or her father and mother — a right embedded in the UN Convention of The Rights of the Child?

Replacing what works with what sounds good makes children the subjects of a vast social experiment.

Depriving children knowledge of, or contact with biological parents however good the intentions was a disaster when religious orders did it.

For children who cannot be reared by their biological parents, adoption has huge advantages for both parties but adoption should always be about the child, not the adults involved.

This change to the Constitution makes it impossible to legally privilege a married mother-father couple for an adoptive child, deliberately ignoring what is best for the child.

READ MORE: Marriage Equality Referendum: No campaign does not value each child

If prostitution is a short-term rental, what are we to make of the long term-lease that is surrogacy?

Implicitly a de-gendered marriage in the Constitution puts this ugly trade at the heart of family law, because two men require a woman to create a child.

With all its abuse of women, cutting children off from siblings and ancestry, reduction of parenthood and human sexuality to sperm donor/incubator tank, surrogacy is too toxic for anything but disapproval and discouragement.

This referendum is not about my right as a gay man to a legal recognition or kinship with my partner, still less is it about my right to love.

Decriminalisation and civil partnership already granted gay people those rights in law. Left to develop, civil partnership would be a real gay institution, reflecting the reality of our lives in a manner that marriage, even the denatured marriage politicians propose, cannot.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny tells us all these issues have been handled in the Children and Family Relationships Act.

That the dubiously constitutional bill was rammed through the Oireachtas with less discussion and time than the abysmal Irish Water bill should concern everyone. This is no way to enact vital change, no way to deal with family law and certainly no way to protect children. Now we are asked to copper-fasten bad legislation and worse ideas.

Terrible damage is being done to democracy by the enforced unanimity of politicians on this huge change. No is not homophobia, whatever the activists scream.

Consensus based on terror has empowered yes campaigners to drive their mailed fist through the electoral laws, defying criminal sanction by removing no campaign posters and sharing pictures of these triumphs over democracy on social media.

What is to stop future referenda or the next general election being held in the same over-heated atmosphere with the same rejection of debate and demonising of opposition? Once rules are broken they stay broken.

The electorate deserve honest answers, even to questions they are told may not be asked. I am very proud of the tiny no campaign, a small handful of amateur activists up against the entire political establishment, the unquestioning media, the trade unions, and Chuck Feeney’s millions.

In a fight that is now as much about democracy as it is about children’s rights, their courage is vital as “activists” systematically attempted to target and threaten the livelihood of anyone campaigning against same-sex marriage. “X is a homophobe and cannot teach/nurse/practise medicine or law” is a terrifying totalitarian campaign that deserves the term Gaystapo.

LGBT activists trying to scare you into voting yes don’t speak for me or many other gay people that they have silenced in this campaign.

I’ll tick that níl box in a pink glitter pen on May 22. I hope whatever colour you use, you will too.

Paddy Manning is a gay man who has been debating same-sex marriage for more than three years on television, radio, and in print. He blogs at

READ MORE: VIDEO: TD asked to remove Yes Equality badge live on RTÉ chat show


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