Long life and Happiness: Vote ‘Yes’ for Gay Marriage

Wednesday 29 April 2015 11:31

The main argument against gay marriage made by people like Breda O’Brien of the Iona Institute seems to be that there is a spiritual interdependence between different kinds of marriages - something like karma. If a gay person gets married then it sets some sort of rot, a blight, a fungal infection on every marriage in the country. This does not seem to apply to other kinds of marriages. For example, if a husband beats his wife (a bad marriage by any standard) it doesn’t seem to affect the spiritual status of an O’Brien-style marriage. It seems therefore, that only gay marriages are really bad. Or, more accurately, that only gay marriages are capable of polluting all our marriages.

Breda O’Brien, it seems, has been married a long time (bless her cotton socks) and if gay people can get married all that long struggle will have been in vain. Her own marriage will feel like a sham.

I too have been married a long time, longer than O’Brien even. It is, I admit, a peculiar and, in many ways, an unpleasant institution originally designed to regulate the ownership of property (‘all my worldly goods’) and with a history of the enslavement of women (‘love honour and obey’). In many ways the world would be a better place without it. On the other hand, we have been very happy and our relationship has, I hope, been a mutually supportive one. I don’t think we needed the apparatus of legal marriage to make that happen, but that’s the way it has been for us. I am conscious that people marry every day and I wish them all long life and happiness. I do not feel that their marriage enlarges or diminishes mine. Nor to do I prescribe it for anyone else.

I like weddings. For the most part, a wedding is an occasion when friends, enemies and members of ones family come together in happiness to wish well to someone else. In this world that unity is something rare. But it is the better part of us, the hopeful part, the loving, affectionate, gentle part of us that raises a glass to the newly wed couple.

Why should we not extend this generosity to everyone? What spiteful incubus settles on people like Breda O’Brien when they encounter a couple who do not conform to the shape of her own marriage?

For too long the Roman Catholic Church and its outriders (the Knights of Columbanus, SPUC, Youth Defence, Opus Dei, The Iona Institute) have been policing the lives of Irish people. Just remember, these are the people who brought you the Magdalene Laundries and the Industrial Schools, who opposed the most progressive legislation (the Mother and Child Scheme was to bring free health care to mothers and children), who seized control of the education system when even the British government wanted to keep the schools open to every religion, who prevented the introduction of contraception for years, who opposed divorce legislation, who struggled to keep homosexuality as a crime, who opposed trade unions, who condemned the struggle for independence, who rationed out charity to the ‘good catholics’, who sheltered and protected child-abusers and forgave them, and who organised themselves to frustrate enquiries and criminal proceedings to prosecute the abusers. There is no need to even mention the worldwide church which signed friendly agreements with Hitler and Mussolini, supported fascism in Spain and South America and silenced its own members who objected to these injustices.

And they want to tell us that two young men or two young women who love each other cannot get married because they will somehow diminish our marriages? That their love, their affection, their pleasure in each other’s company, their desire to be together for life, their commitment is some kind of sin that will destroy the happiness of everyone else?

Let us not be part of this spiteful, vindictive, malign and self-centred attitude to our fellow human beings.

If love is anything it is various. Nobody knows why someone loves, we scarcely can say ourselves why we love someone. But we know we are lucky to have found it; with all its joys and all its pains it is better than loneliness. And we should wish everyone the same luck. Would you wish loneliness on a fellow human being? I know well that some people prefer to be alone. That is their decision. But for those who love each other and want to make a life together, why should we say ‘No, your marriage would make my marriage bad.’?

Dear Breda O’Brien, Dear Iona Institute, Dear no voter, what twisted spirituality makes your happiness dependent on the misery of a stranger?

Here’s what I say: Long life and happiness!

Vote yes for gay marriage in the coming referendum.