By voting 'yes' on May 22, people can change forever what it means to grow up gay in Ireland.
Ireland is experiencing social shifts similar to those in America.
Gay couples are not legally allowed to get married in Ireland.
Although Ireland's constitution does not define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, the courts have interpreted it to mean that. Additionally, the Civil Registration Act, introduced in 2004, does indeed define marriage as being between a man and woman.
The country instead offers "civil partnership" options to gay, lesbian, and transgender folks.
Unfortunately, a civil partnership doesn't give all of the rights and responsibilities as marriage.
According to Marriage Equality, a not-for-profit that champions LGBT rights in Ireland, there are over 160 statutory differences between the two options. While they've worked with elected representatives to reconcile many differences,
"some very important inequalities remain. For example, Civil Partnership:
- Does not permit children to have a legally recognised relationship with their parents - only the biological one. This causes all sorts of practical problems for hundreds of families with schools and hospitals as well as around guardianship, access and custody. In the worst case, it could mean that a child is taken away from a parent and put into care on the death of the biological parent.
- Does not recognise same sex couples' rights to many social supports that may be needed in hardship situations and may literally leave a loved one out in the cold.
- Defines the home of civil partners as a 'shared home,' rather than a 'family home,' as is the case for married couples. This has implications for the protection of dependent children living in this home and also means a lack of protection for civil partners who are deserted."
What message does it send when two groups are conferred differing (and unequal) rights?
On May 22, Ireland will vote on a referendum for marriage equality.
If the referendum passes, Ireland's constitution will be amended to include the following language: "Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex."
Just like that, with 17 simple words, all Irish citizens would have the same legal right to get married.
So BeLonG To Youth Services is encouraging people to vote for "yes" for equality — and to bring along their family!
Equality is good for everyone.