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We must put reason ahead of emotion in marriage referendum

While fully supporting the civil partnership arrangements that already provide same sex couples with very extensive legal security, I see the idea of homosexual “marriage” in quite a different light.

I have listened attentively to what the yes side has to say and their campaign has struck me as intellectually shallow and hollow in the extreme, consisting — in the absence of argument based on law and logic — of emotionally-laden, basically irrelevant buzz-words intended to make those who oppose them look mean and bad: ‘we are anti-equality and anti-love’.

The referendum is not about equality. All Irish citizens are already “equal before the law” (Article 40.1 of our Constitution) and the same marriage laws apply to all. The relevant question here is not whether heterosexual and homosexual unions are “equal” but whether they are the same — which is what the ‘yes’-side is really claiming — and so should be treated as if they were the same. It is clear that precisely with regard to what is dealt with in Art 41 of the Constitution — family as a natural unit: mother, father, their own children — heterosexual and homosexual unions could hardly be more different, and so there is no basis for changing the Constitution on the pretence that they are the same.

It seems clear to me that anyone who persists in peddling the notion that the referendum is about equality cannot be both intelligent and honest.

Another, equally misleading feature of the ‘yes’ campaign is the insistence that a shift from heterosexual marriage to homosexual “marriage” would not involve redefinition.

Wherever one looks — in the ancient Digest of Roman Law, in the Oxford English Dictionary or elsewhere — marriage is always defined as the union of a man and a woman. The Encyclopedia Britannica puts it very forcefully and succinctly: “Marriage is, by definition, a legally sanctioned union between a man and a woman.” Now, what was that again about not redefining...? Well, I suppose you can always hope to fool enough of the people enough of the time.

Over thousands of years the centrality of marriage and the natural family to human society has been recognised and various peoples have had laws regulating marriage. Before Christianity was ever heard of, Caesar Augustus, canniest of rulers, introduced such laws to stabilise the Roman family and so the future of his empire. Such laws, including Art 41 of our Constitution, embodying the wisdom of the ages, have always looked to the welfare of children, the guarantors of the continuing common good, and have aimed to secure that welfare by fostering the “natural” family consisting of father, mother and their own naturally procreated children. Many children, of course, because of some circumstance such as the death of a parent or marital breakdown, do not have the ideal situation envisaged here, but if the proposed addition to Art 41 — an addition utterly alien to its intended context — is passed, we will be doing a new and potentially harmful thing to our children and our society: deliberately exposing children by intent, by design of law to a situation where they are necessarily either fatherless or motherless from the outset, and this is not, of course, for the good of the children but to satisfy an emotional need felt by some homosexual adults.

Let us not engage in such experiments with the future of our children and our society.

It is important, as perhaps never before or again, to go out and vote in sufficient numbers in the referendum and to vote “No”.

Dr James N O’Sullivan

New Road


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