‘But what about balance!?!’ the not-homophobes wail, tears in their eyes; one hand gripping the earth beneath their knees, the other clenched into a fist, shaking at the Heaven that has seemingly forsaken Holy Ireland.

Balance“: a word somewhere between a rousing battle-cry and a sorrowful whimper the not-homophobes throw about in attempt to garner some semblance of credibility as their voices continue to sink into the abyss of Real Life. A word – along with “silence” – brought out on a regular basis to show how the not-homophobes are, in fact, the real victims in all of this. If a gay person appears on a radio show to talk about their everyday life in modern Ireland, then surely not having someone else to shout them down is “silencing” the opponents of same-sex marriage? How can we be a functioning democracy when the holders of the status quo in the country are unable to speak their not-homophobic minds without someone raising an eyebrow? Waaaah! Baaaaalaaaaance!

balance

But the not-homophobes are not actually homophobes, despite what the liberals would have you think. Oh no. It’s actually about the children. After all, two people who love each other and want to spend their lives together is, as we all know, the exact same thing as children.

A recent Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll showed that 67% of people in Ireland are in favour of marriage equality. If we take the undecided people out of the results, the supporting numbers rise to about 77%. These are good numbers. If this keeps going hopefully every couple in love will have the option to get married and spend their lives together. I’d like to believe that most people in Ireland who ever felt love will be able to say to themselves “why would I ever try to deny someone this feeling?”.

But we cannot be complacent. Sure, loads of people are in support of marriage equality right now, will they have the same thoughts when presented with the option next Spring to make that opinion law? When faced with the actual decision in the upcoming referendum, will they support it? The supporting side has been quite vocal so far, but I have yet to see the anti-equality side bring out the big guns. What if they bring out an argument completely unrelated to the referendum at the least minute? As my pal Donal O’Keefe wrote in TheJournal.ie:

It’s worth remembering that opinion polls ahead of the Children’s Rights Referendum showed support at 73%. It’s also worth recalling that the Referendum saw an eleventh hour hijacking by way-out-there extremists. What if they stage a similar intervention in this campaign? What if they, at the last minute, parade a child abuse case with a gay inference?

Couple this with “balance”, and suddenly you have media outlets feeling they’re required to air every nonsensical and bullshit opinion, resulting in mayhem. People will get freaked out and then just decide to play it safe on the day. They’ll vote ‘no’.

Children’s welfare is one of the main “arguments” that the not-homophobes use these days.

The Iona Institute continues to trot out the idea that the best situation for children is to be raised by their biological, married parents. Indeed, in the linked article, they quote Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as saying that marriage is a “child-centred view”. Article 16 makes no mention of children, nor does it say that marriage must be opposite sex. What it actually says is:

  1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

  2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

  3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

However, the thing that puzzles me about Iona and their equally not-homophobic pals is that they’re opposing marriage equality on the basis of children in the first place.

Children, children, children. But what about the children??!?! Repeat it enough times and maybe it’ll become relevant, right? There is legislation being prepared at the moment – The Children and Family Relationships Bill – that is expected to come into effect in a month or so. This will allow same-sex couples to adopt children, regardless of the outcome of the Marriage Equality Referendum. Gay individuals can already adopt children, and lots of children all over the country are being raised – and have been raised – by loving same-sex partners.

So what, I hear you ask, are the not-homophobes complaining about the Referendum for? Shouldn’t they be focusing on the Relationships Bill if their main “concern” is children? It baffles me, too. You’d wonder if they know what they’re actually arguing against. I think a short exchange between Claire Byrne and Breda O’Brien on Claire Byrne Live summed it up nicely:

Claire: Are you concerned about same-sex marriage?

Breda: *silence* … Sorry? I don’t understand.

That edition of Claire Byrne Live was interesting because the anti-equality guests brought out every unrelated argument they could think of, but didn’t address the actual point of the Referendum. As pointed out by John Lyons TD on the show, the Referendum will ask – in some form – if we think the right to marry should be extended to couples of the same sex. Simple as that.

But no. Instead we got a studio full of straw man arguments about IVF, surrogacy, self-identity, and adoption. Like, these are important topics and all, but what do they have to do with Marriage Equality? These things already exist here. They’re not new. Two men or two women getting married won’t make any difference at all.

Every child has the right to a mother and father, the not-homophobes say. Only, more recently they’ve been adding “where possible” to the end of that. Maybe they realised their point falls flat on its face, unless they want to ban adoption and single-parent families, too. But this whole “where possible” thing is just as silly. ‘Even if you do get married, your marriage is still second-class to ours,’ is what they’re saying, as they’d prefer a child go to an opposite-sex couple rather than a same-sex couple.

The problem is that a lot of the well-meaning, semi-interested, undecided public will listen to this drivel and take it as fact. After all, who doesn’t want the best for children? For this reason, the nonsense and straw man arguments spouted by anti-equality commentators must be robustly countered with facts and pointed out for the unrelated topics that they are. We cannot be complacent in the coming months or on polling day, because this is not necessarily a given victory for the pro-marriage equality side, and the likes of the Iona Institute know this. Opponents will continue to come out and argue against something we’re not even voting on, and dress it up in a way to make you forget the fact that, at the root of it all, they just don’t like the idea of gay people having sex. And when they’re called out, they’ll keep flapping about as they always do complaining that they’re being “silenced” and that real life facts must be “balanced”.

I’m more than happy for them to have balance, but only if they cut out the bullshit.