People who disagree with the yes vote are being bullied

If we vote yes on Friday, we will be replacing one form of criminalisation with a new form of criminalisation, writes Independent senator Jim Walsh 

We are told that the marriage equality referendum is only about love and equality. That is a dangerously misleading claim

In a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, former editor Charles Moore denounced what he called “a new form of gay rights sharia”, which is attempting to aggressively drown out and silence traditional views on family and marriage, and which is riding roughshod over the rights of children.

People are being bullied, harassed, and victimised because they cannot, in conscience, facilitate things with which they fundamentally disagree. They are not discriminating against people, they are merely refusing to support the redefinition of marriage, and are having their livelihoods threatened and lives ruined for doing so.

READ MORE: Marriage Equality Referendum: Answering key questions

In the past, gay people were criminalised for being gay. We are replacing one form of criminalisation with a new form of criminalisation. If same-sex marriage is passed, people who believe that marriage is the union of man and woman and that children deserve a mother and father will find those opinions contrary to law, and if they run a business connected with marriage or an agency connected with adoption they could find themselves vulnerable to prosecution.

The owner of Daintree Paper, a small stationery shop in Dublin, was driven out of business. This followed a campaign by marriage equality activists because he wouldn’t display a wedding cake topper consisting of two grooms in his shop.

Yesterday, a Christian-owned bakery which refused to make a cake carrying a pro-gay marriage slogan was found guilty of discrimination in a landmark legal action. The Northern Ireland Equality Commission brought the case against Ashers Baking Company on behalf of Gareth Lee, the gay rights activist whose order was declined.

Giving her ruling at Belfast County Court, district judge Isobel Brownlie said: “The defendants have unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff on grounds of sexual discrimination.

“This is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification.”

Last year, Brendan Eich was forced to resign as chief executive of US-based computer firm Mozilla Firefox after a campaign against a $1,000 donation he made in 2008 to a group that opposed marriage equality in California.

We are told that the marriage equality referendum is only about love and equality. That is a dangerously misleading claim and the Government is clearly putting pressure on non-governmental organisations, state-funded bodies, and sporting organisations to peddle this to their members and to us the voters.

Last week, the Government withdrew funding for marriage preparation courses from the Catholic agency Accord. Many people think the agency is being starved of funding because the Catholic Church does not support the Government’s agenda on the redefinition of marriage.

If this is the case, no wonder other government-sponsored agencies are supporting a yes vote given the funding implications of not doing so. The Government can spend €20m on two referenda, one of which irrevocably changes the meaning of marriage, but sees fit to remove €360,000 to help continue pre-marriage courses.

The Government is spending that €20m to argue that we should change our Constitution’s concept of family. The very idea of the mother-father family is being treated like some sort of anachronism that doesn’t fit with “the new normal”. We should not change our Constitution unless we can be absolutely sure about what we are doing. Nobody knows what kind of knock-on effects there will be in courts.

READ MORE: Marriage Equality Referendum: Answering key questions

The Government is gambling with children’s rights and its recent Children and Family Relationships Act is so piecemeal and inadequate that our country will have no legal foundation in place to bear the weight of legal consequences that will flow from same-sex marriage.

Another conscience issue is the teaching of gender theory in our schools. In France, the advent of same-sex marriage has gone hand in hand with the teaching of gender theory, which, basically, holds that gender differences are socially constructed and that there are no innate differences between men and women, boys and girls.

We can see that, ideologically, the Government has bought into the gender theory idea that there is no difference between men and women, or between opposite-sex and same-sex unions, or between a mother-father family and a mother-mother family or father-father family.

My concern is that this will be enforced in schools. LGBT Noise has said children in nurseries should be taught about same-sex relationships and same-sex families. This is blatant sexualisation of children at a tender age.

This is inevitably where Government policy is headed if we vote yes. I believe it should be up to parents to decide how to educate young children on these matters.

Recently the Irish National Teachers Organisation and GLEN (the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) sent out a poster to be displayed in all schools. The poster heading is ‘Different Families, Same Love’, and it depicts children with two fathers, a mother and father, two mothers. Is this not indoctrination?

The Government has rejected the idea of inserting freedom of conscience protections and exemptions into law if same-sex marriage is introduced.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted that all schools will have to teach the new conception of marriage and family, regardless of the ethos of the school.

Marriage isn’t the only thing at stake in this referendum. Freedom of opinion and freedom of conscience, for individuals, organisations and schools, are also on the chopping block.

READ MORE: Marriage Equality Referendum: Answering key questions

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