Your Yes is as good as mine

Up until recently it was my intention to avoid blogging my opinion on the upcoming referendum.

It’s not that I have no feelings on the matter, far from it – it’s just I was pretty sure that while my views on the need for both legislative and constitutional equality are strong, this particular issue of same sex marriage didn’t apply enough to me to warrant expressing an opinion so I thought it best to keep my head down and vote yes.

Then the No campaign started putting forward their arguments which enlightened me that this issue did in fact have a lot to do with me.

“Children deserve a mother and a father”

Both of my biological parents are alive, and though they haven’t had any contact with each other since shortly after I was born near San Francisco, they are both a part of my life today.  

However, for reasons which are definitely for another day’s blogging, I was actually raised by my maternal grandparents who brought me to Ireland at the age of 8, ironically to increase the chances of my receiving a “proper Catholic upbringing”.

So despite being kept apart from my mother and father growing up, I reckon I turned out ok.  Yet going by the No campaign’s dog-whistle rhetoric in the various debates, in the utopian world of the likes of Ronan Mullen, David Quinn and Breda O’Brien, I must somehow be less of a person.

If voting No means that this utopian world remains entrenched in our Constitution, then I am most definitely going to vote Yes, and I’d be surprised if anyone else who was raised by someone other than their birth parents yet wasn’t ashamed of it didn’t do the same.

“Two men can’t replace a mother’s love”

Both of my grandparents passed away a decade ago.  While I still have ties to both biological parents and other family across the USA, the nature of the distance limits regular contact to emails and Facebook posts.  

So basically, my immediate family here in Ireland consists of my wife, our two children (one of which was born just over a week ago) and my two from a previous marriage, who are aged 20 and 17 respectively and very much in our lives.

What I’m getting at is that if something were to happen to both myself and my wife, there is nobody on my side of the family in a position to take the two younger children into their care.  

On my wife’s side, she just has her mother who is in her 80s and her older brother…and since he already has a strong bond with our 6-year-old, responsibility would naturally fall to him.

Unfortunately, because of the issues raised in this referendum, I feel the need to point out that he is both gay and single.  But neither of those facts matter.  

If fate deprives my children of both their mother and their father, then next in line is their uncle, full stop.   And if he happened to be in a loving relationship as well, I cannot begin to understand how that could do anything but help him in what would clearly be difficult circumstances.


Of course I am being a little facetious in suggesting that the two issues above somehow tie me to this issue, though the facts about my personal situation are all true.  Nothing about those statements on the No posters relate even remotely to what we’re being asked to vote on this Friday, nor does surrogacy.

My favourite sound bite in last night’s Prime Time debate was from the No side…as soon as the Yes proponents used the phrase “red herring”, they jumped in with the retort “Children are not red herrings”, which I’m sure had their supporters fist-pumping as if some kind of knockout blow had been delivered, when in actual fact it was in itself yet another example of the baseless premises they have used throughout the campaign.

I mean – can someone please tell me where anyone on the Yes side has said children were red herrings?  Didn’t think so.

The No campaign have also made “attacks on their personal beliefs” a cornerstone of their argument.  When they talk about going around being afraid to speak in public about how they feel and who they are for fear of being called names and perceived as pariahs, I am still struggling to understand how they cannot see the irony.

In reality, nobody is attacking what they believe.  I just don’t see why those beliefs need to be enshrined in a Constitution which is meant to be for everyone in the State, not just a subset of those who happen to tick the “right” boxes.

Whatever way the vote goes on Friday, Canon Law will remain as it always was, and if any significant number on the Yes side has a problem with that then I would be very much surprised.  Nobody with any sense is going to go running into Catholic churches demanding that they be gay married.  

Sure, there will be those who are hateful and abusive to people of faith, just as there will be those hateful and abusive to the LBGTI community.  I’d like to think that after Friday the majority of civilised citizens on both sides can come together and demonstrate that such hatred cannot be tolerated.

So given everything the No campaign can muster amounts to mis-direction, it leaves the rest of us to discuss what is actually up for debate, namely the overall issue of Equality which underpins the specific nature of same-sex marriage.

I am very confident that the Yes side will be victorious this weekend, but I do have two concerns, and both involve complacency.

First, there is the fear that many will stay away from the polls because they are sure a victory is going to happen.  We don’t just need victory to happen.  We need it to happen with a statement.  I will be very disappointed if the turnout is less than 75% and/or the Yes vote is less than 60%, though I do believe one happening is dependant on the other.

My second concern is that should this referendum pass as expected, the overall pursuit for true Equality in legislation in Ireland will be put on the back burner.  

The “Left”/progressive side of the population could be tempted to bask in the glory of a decent victory for longer than they should, while the “Right”/conservative side (many of whom are voting Yes) could assume the position “Well you’ve got your same-sex marriage now; we presume you won’t have the cheek to ask for anything else for a long time!”

Equality, be it among those of different sexual orientation, those of different religious beliefs, those of different races, different incomes, different anything really, is never something we should ask for.  It is something we should expect.  

Rónán Mullen constantly talks about the society he’d like to see in Ireland.  Well the society I would like to see is one which includes Rónán Mullen before I know anything about him.  That is why I am voting Yes.  

I have no right to instruct you how to vote.  But if you are on the register please, please, PLEASE make the time to at least exercise your democratic right this Friday. 


PS – On the other question before the people, while I would probably be inclined to vote for a generic 35-year-old candidate before a generic 21-year-old one in a presidential election, I certainly don’t see why we should stop such a hypothetical ballot taking place, so I am also voting yes. 

© JL Pagano 2015

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