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Yes – Vote yes for gay rights, but stay reserved about state support for marriage

The case for gay rights, pioneered in this country by David Norris through the courts and the European Convention on Human Rights, is unanswerable. Everyone has the option – philosophically – to believe the equality of gay people or to deny it. But the fact is that if people chose – in a practical or political way – to register their offence at what others get up to where no nuisance is caused to third parties, there would be no end to the asymmetrical busybodiness that would undermine public and individual welfare. For this reason society is best served by freedom for consenting adults to exercise whatever sexual preferences best fulfil them.

Village feels no more need to indulge the preferences of gawkers that others should deny their sexuality – the Iona Institute’s Breda O’Brien recommends gay abstention – than it feels the need to indulge the preferences of bigots that seek to count people as inferior by virtue of their race, sex, able-bodiedness or any other accident of birth. Indulgence of such bigotry would be a charter for Nazis and eugenicists.

Village is driven by an egalitarian approach to  rights. It is not impressed with assertions of rights to property by those with lots of it for example (the O’Donnells and the Quinns), or noisy campaigns against property taxes, at least fair ones, or against capital acquisitions and gains taxes.

It treats very seriously the ordinary right to life, as the most fundamental manifestation of the  equality of humans; it promotes equality of education and equality of health treatment. It believes in equality of quality of life. And Village considers that future generations have an equal right to the fruits of the earth giving rise to an obligation to care for the environment, sustainably.

Equality is Village’s stringent thing. Equality of rights is not something to be casually touted around. If something should not be a right then there should not be equality of the right. For example, Village would not acknowledge the right of a ethnic minority to form a gentlemen’s club that excluded women: there should be no right to form clubs that exclude women so there should be no equal right for that ethnic minority to do so.

Against this background while it takes gay rights very seriously, it is much less impressed with the case for marriage, even gay marriage.

Marriage should be an emotional and social privilege not a legal right.

A right is something that everyone can avail of. Marriage is something that only people who are linked through love can avail of.

Furthermore, marriage discriminates in favour of the fortunate (those lucky enough to be linked through love), including through tax advantages. Egalitarians would ideally indulge only institutions that promote the less fortunate, not institutions designed to enshrine iniquity.

The understandably fraught debate on marriage equality in 2015 has been remarkably unphilosophical with the Yes campaign absolutely ascendant in the media and amongst decision-makers but characteristically driven by emotionalism, a visceral and right-on sense of the modern and, for the most part, a freedom-dressed-up as-equality-agenda which says if straights have a right to marry then so too should gay people – without ever questioning whether straights should indeed have that right, whether marriage serves the vision of a progressive society.

This unradical view of society begets a politics that wishes to get the state off the back of the citizenry.

Village’s agenda is for the state to be active in promoting the needs of all the oppressed.

Agendas rooted in freedom and liberalism rather than equality are less likely to see opportunities for solidarity with other oppressed groups. So there has been little common purpose made between the gay-marriage campaign and those fighting for unfashionable rights for Travellers, asylum-seekers in direct provision, or (most controversially since they are disdained as being counter to the still substantially unrealised feminist agenda which like wise can be rooted in either freedom or equality) fathers’ guardianship rights, for example. Hopefully this common purpose will evolve in due course.

Being moved by recent celebrations of legislative change in the US and France and an underlying visceral preference for the views of the LGBT movement rather than those of the Iona Institute is simply not enough to justify affording marriage a status it does not deserve.

Certainly as was recently underlined by Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the US Supreme Court marriage has moved on from the era, only a generation ago, when it was a capsule within which men could treat women as chattels. Nevertheless at its essence it defines, patriarchically and Thomistically, a relationship centred on a woman’s utility as a child-bearer and primary rearer.

A radical and egalitarian agenda is to undermine state support – including financial support – for marriage, not to extend the numbers who can benefit from the unfair privilege.

Equality of access to marriage would extend it to people in polyamorous relationships, housekeeper and housekept and indeed to all singles, in love or not. That is not envisaged so the issue in this referendum cannot truly be said to be one of equality, either.

Perversely, perhaps undermining it is the best thing gay marriage can do to this complacent institution.

Moreover, you do not of course need to advantage the married in order to generously and directly support children. Supporting children is a separate issue from supporting marriage. It is an imperative which the State can address without buoying marriage.

Assuming gay marriage becomes constitutionally possible, the best interests of the children should be the overwhelming, overarching guide to parenting and adoption. There is no evidence that gay couples, married or unmarried, provide inferior parenting. Or that well-supported parenting by good single parents cannot serve the best interests of the children. Therefore gays should have equal rights to adopt, but so too should well-adjusted loving single people.

All that said, in a society that elevates marriage, and where the options are Yes or No, it would be terrifying to vote against an apparently cherished agenda for a minority which has traditionally been discriminated against, and indeed remains egregiously discriminated against in the case of the young, many of whom are traumatised and bullied in the period before they come out. In these circumstances, vote Yes. •