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Marriage is the only institution which unites children with their mother and father

People need to ask themselves if Ireland should eliminate from law the sole institution that unites kids with their mam and dads.

MY FATHER DIED when I was five. I know the hole that leaves in one’s life. The experience of being reared without a father has given me a deep conviction about the right of children not to be intentionally deprived of a father and mother.

Heather Barwick was raised by her mother and her mother’s same-sex partner. She recently spoke at a conference in Dublin and her words resonated with me: “Same-sex marriage and parenting withholds either a mother or father from a child while telling him or her that it doesn’t matter. That it’s all the same. But it’s not. A lot of us are hurting. My father’s absence created a huge hole in me, and I ached every day for a dad. I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost. And it’s only now, as I watch my children loving and being loved by their father each day, that I can see the wisdom in traditional marriage and parenting.”

Redefining family in a profound way

My biggest concern is that the Children and Family Relationships Act, the marriage referendum, and planned legislation on surrogacy are all part of the same Government agenda and together they entail redefining the family in a profound and radical way.

We are being asked to eliminate from the law the only civil institution that unites kids with their mother and father. Marriage unites man-woman and any children born from their union. That’s what it is and that’s what it does. People need to ask themselves if Ireland should eliminate from law the sole institution that unites kids with their mam and dads. That’s the key issue in this referendum.

This Government is giving its full imprimatur to techniques of assisted reproduction that will create fatherless and motherless children. Countries like Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Malta, Portugal all ban ALL surrogacy. Germany, Austria, Italy, France and Switzerland restrict donor assisted human reproduction to stable male-female couples.

When people look at the assortment of ‘Yes Equality’ posters, perhaps they might ask themselves two questions:

1. Does Civil Partnership not already provide same-sex couples with full rights and entitlements?

Civil Partnership provides couples with all of the same succession rights, social welfare benefits and taxation provisions, including exemption from inheritance tax, as enjoyed by married men and women.

2. By redefining marriage, are we creating a situation where some children will have a mother and father and other children will intentionally be deprived of a mother and father? Surely this is a fundamental inequality for children. Why do the Yes side want to disconnect marriage from the rights of children?

How is this cherishing children equally?

Yes campaigners tell us to “cherish all of the children of the nation equally.” How do we treat all children equally if some are intentionally deprived of their mam or dad? How do we treat all children equally if some are deprived of their full identity and forced to grow up without knowing or having contact with their own parents or grandparents? How do we treat all children equally if some have multiple donor and surrogate parents or hundreds of donor-conceived half-siblings, none of whom they will ever know?

Rather than cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, we are instead in danger of creating a new hierarchy of children. That is the antithesis of equality.

We are told we need to redefine marriage to prove that Ireland is a “mature” and “modern” country. This language reveals an inferiority complex on the part of the Irish establishment. The fact is that only 19 countries have redefined marriage to include same-sex marriage: all by their judiciary or their legislature.

This Government wants Ireland to be the first country in the world to introduce same-sex marriage by a popular vote. In every country where the electorate has had a say, they have all voted to retain marriage as an institution between a man and woman only.

Government agenda

The government has inserted the words “marriage equality” into this referendum. That is a lobby group term and its inclusion shows the government wants to push Irish voters in a certain direction. This Government agenda is, in fact, a betrayal of our republican heritage and our Republic, creating, as it does, a fundamental inequality for children: some will have a mother and a father but some will not, by diktat of Government and the Legislature.

On the eve of the centenary of 1916, the government has, in truth, abandoned the vision of treating all of the children of the nation equally. However, Irish people have an opportunity on 22 May to have their say and to send a message to Government that they don’t agree with its desire to radically change marriage, completely redefine family, or irreversibly disconnect children from their own mother and father.

Senator Jim Walsh.

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