This Friday, May 22nd, those of age in Ireland will get to vote in a very important referendum, marriage equality. This will be the thirty-forth amendment to the constitution to mandate the provision of same sex marriage. You can read more about it here.
Since the announcement, I have been very adamant on how I am voting. When the No posters started going up around Dublin and then around my own town, I was disgusted. You see, the No campaign's argument, mainly, is that this proposed change will somehow be detrimental to children and the 'family unit'. They believe a child needs a mother and father to be happy. In posters, they have the tag line of "She needs her mother for life, not just for 9 months." So really, what they are saying is that a child won't be happy without a mother. In my opinion, this is horsesh*t.
I believe a good parent is a good parent regardless of sex. What a child needs is love and support. Just because I'm a woman does not mean I am more equipped to give this love and support than a male counterpart. Our hearts, male or female, are the same. As a woman, I do not have super powers that allow me to be a perfect parent to Beth. I make mistakes, her dad makes mistakes, our parents made mistakes with us. There is no manual for anyone and for me to stand up and say I know more about raising children than any same sex couple would be unbelievably arrogant and downright stupid. Parenting is a minefield, no one gets it completely right. We keep our kids happy and healthy as best we can, regardless of our sex.
In saying all that, I do believe there has to be balance in a child's life. Many of the No side might see that as being a male/female balance. The male/discipline and female/love. But, I see it more of a ying/yang balance. Being a single mother, I do have to be both sides of the coin. If I can do this (well, I attempt to), it can be said the same for same sex couples. Balance is needed, it's something I have to work hard at, something I fail at often, but if I can do it, see Beth needs that, then it stands to reason any same sex couple can do that too. I personally know same sex couples that would probably do a better job than me!
Another point, same sex couples can already be parents. This referendum would just be allowing them the same rights as a heterosexual married couple, therefore allowing them to be recognised and protected as a family unit.
As it stands in Ireland, we have civil partnerships. The No side believe same sex couples should be happy with this. In my view, we are all the same and therefore should have the same rights. Why should gay members of our society be treated as second class citizens?
On Friday, after I finish work, I will collect Beth and take her with me to the polling booth. I always take her with me when I am voting as I want her to see how important it is to make her voice heard, especially as a woman. I want her to see me voting yes, I want her to know we are all human and we deserve the same rights regardless of sexual orientation. If she came to me in ten years to say she was gay, how could I look her in the eye if I hadn't voted yes? How would I tell her I didn't stand up for her rights to be seen as equal to her heterosexual peers?
This is going to be a very close vote. Probably as close as the Divorce Referendum of 1995. The No campaign then had the same argument about the 'family unit'. I was too young to vote, but remember the tag line of the No campaign "Hello divorce, goodbye Daddy." Ridiculous. But, it almost didn't pass. This is why it is so important for everyone to get out and vote!