Two very important things are going to happen on the 22nd May this year, one is a fairly big milestone birthday for me the second is that Irish people get to vote in a referendum on marriage equality. Both these events are highly important but the second will have a lasting impact on the lives of more people so I am going to admit that the vote is more important than the birthday.
Not so long ago I would have been considered to be living in sin, IN SIN. That seems hilarious now but I remember those words having real meaning to people’s lives in Ireland. This little country has a lovely history of ascribing stigma to things that could usher in social change. Free availability of contraception (1992), they’ll all be at it! Decriminalising homosexuality (1993), we’ll all be gay now! Divorce (1996), Jesus it’s all over now! Well the world didn’t end but society as we knew it did and that was a great thing, the society we had back then was cruel and restrictive. That was the society that allowed for Magdalene laundries, clerical and institutional child abuse, limited rights for women, no rights for children born outside of marriage, no rights for gay people. That change required people to act and if you want all people in this country to have the right to marry then you need to act, you need to make sure to vote because you can be certain that the people who are motivated by fear will go out and vote no.
I am not going to be tripping down the aisle anytime soon, it is not for me but I realise I am in an incredibly privileged position to be able to say that because I have a choice. I have been afforded the right to make that decision, it was mine to make, no government, no religion, no bigot was telling me that I couldn’t marry the person I have chosen to share my life with. Every person in this country should be able to make that decision themselves.
Not being married myself my naïve understanding of marriage is that it should be between two people for whom the act of standing before friends and family and declaring their love has a deep meaning. The ceremony has meaning, the vows have meaning, making those vows publicly, surrounded by love has meaning. Having that act of mutual devotion recognised by law has huge meaning. The fact that there are people fighting for this right tells me that marriage has meaning to them.
Everyone should have the right to nervously plan a proposal, to have that moment when someone says yes, to plan more than a wedding but a life together. Partner is a cold word, any woman should be able to look at the love of her life and call her wife, any man should be able to be able to introduce the man who shares his life as his husband. On a selfish note I really want to see my boyfriend one day walk his daughter down the aisle towards her future wife because I know how much that moment will mean to both of them. There is not a person alive who could come at me with an argument that could convince me that they should not have that moment. That seventeen year old girl is out campaigning for this right alongside the rest of the bright, brave, hopefully people who will usher in a better society not just for themselves but for everyone.
I love that this vote is happening on my birthday. I hope to cap off my natal celebrations by popping a bottle of bubbly to a Yes vote. I really want there to be a resounding Yes, a joyful Yes, a Yes that carries Ireland further away from its grey grim past in to the future. Please go out and vote and vote YES.