What if it’s no?

I want it to be yes because so many good people want it so much, and because they continue to face bigotry and hatred in exercising their right to say so. I confess I am a little mystified as to why they do. I suppose it’s understandable that people want to storm the fortress and claim one of the constructs of the society that has oppressed them, but there are others who don’t feel their relationships need that sort of validation. I am not persuaded that legislation is incapable of providing full equality without the opening of marriage to same-sex couples. It is, to say the least, unfortunate that thousands of people find themselves at the centre of a debate that presumes to probe so closely into their moral probity. We’re used to that, of course – but we’ve contrived to turn it all into a vote on whether or not we should be valued and accepted, when justice – and even the Constitution – demands that that should be taken for granted.

And so, inevitably, the Yes camp has been no less guilty of histrionics and ad hominem attacks than its opponents. God knows, it has its reasons – and perhaps the social media age reduces all arguments to such in the end. Somehow, both sides seem to fetishize marriage and family as bulwarks of stability and reservations of love – but there are many of us, whether we have been married or not, who know that that is not always the case. The result is entrenchment and polarisation and a hardening of hearts. It all makes me anxious. The psephologists warn that it could be no – and I fear they may be right.

Whatever the result, some realities will endure. There will always be prejudice. Minorities will always have to struggle. The perfect world does not exist. I hope it’s yes. If it is, it will have some positive practical consequences. But in the broader scheme of things it really won’t change very much. None of us should depend on a vote to be persuaded, or to persuade others, of our dignity. The sadness is that when the votes have been counted that struggle will continue.

Rupert Moreton

4 thoughts on “What if it’s no?

  1. Well said.

    We haven’t “contrived” to turn it into a vote. That was the legal advice the Irish government received. Apparently, mere legislation would have risked a constitutional challenge. Much better to get it over the line constitutionally, I think. Plus, the debate makes people from both camps make fools of themselves and show their true colours, which is useful.


    • Oh, but I think we have. I’m not talking about the constitutional niceties – the important words are “on whether or not we should be valued and accepted”. I’m talking about how “we” cast the vote’s significance. It’s all “look at me, I’m worthy of dignity. and if you vote no you’re not my friend”. Worthy attempts have been made in the mainstream media to keep the focus on the issue itself – but it’s all over the place in these parts.


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