"They hear whispers or listen to those who are adamant against this referendum, and the idea of change scares them. They are not the “silent No”, but the “ill-informed No”. They will not vote No out of spite or hatred... but out of innocent ignorance."
Let me start this article by saying that I am going to support the Marriage Equality Referendum this Friday, and I am proud to do so for my gay friends and families and for the advancement of my country.
I am lucky in that, as I am writing an article, I do not have to present the other side or opinion here. I do, however, appeal to those who have decided to vote Yes or No, or are unsure how to vote or have decided not to vote at all, to continue reading this article.
The Marriage Equality Referendum has been a divisive issue for many families and communities across Ireland. I have seen journalists who intend voting Yes comment on Twitter on the pain of putting "a friend’s face” to the No campaign, and I am sure that people who intend to vote No must find it difficult to disagree with those on the opposite side.
The issue of balance is one that has cast its shadow on the campaign, as any broadcaster or programme must give each opposing side the same amount of air-time on air. This, I do not have an issue with. It is important that any programme, especially on the public broadcaster, be impartial and provide fair arguments to the electorate.
However, This referendum has posed problems as the No side, in my opinion, has introduced unfair and duplicitous arguments to the side, intent on confusing doubtful or unsure voters.
These arguments have served to muddy the waters in this campaign, and because of the issue of “balance”, have been given unfair air-time. This is to the detriment of the referendum campaign for both sides.
If the No side were being honest, they would admit that the idea of two men or two women marrying makes them uncomfortable. They don’t view their love as equal, and they honestly believe that their own marriage, if they are married, would be demeaned and lessened should same-sex marriage be allowed in this country.
This opinion, however, would be discriminatory, and naturally unpopular in the public. So instead, the No side have introduced supplementary subjects and issues, which they know will inflame public opinion and cause distrust in the public.
These include adoption of children by gay couples, surrogacy and education. Although the independent Referendum Commissioner has confirmed that adoption and surrogacy have nothing to do with the referendum, and the status of such will not be changed following the result of this referendum, these subjects are consistently and continuously mentioned by the No side.
Why? The No side know that this will make people who are unsure or doubtful or uncomfortable with these ideas swing to the No side.
I have been listening intently to marriage referendum debates and I have seen these red herrings being used in order to provide balance. The No side must have equal air time, and so again and again they are allowed to draw in these issues.
Surrogacy and adoption is introduced to the debate, and the Yes side are forced to discuss them. Today, I heard someone on the No side say on a radio debate that a child is more likely to be abused should it be raised by gay parents.
The very mention of such inflammatory talk should be shut down, but the debate is forced to discuss this because of “balance”.
We are told that the “groupthink” is dictating public opinion. People are afraid to “stick their head above the parapet” and say that they vote No because they will be looked down upon, or chastised for this unpopular opinion. The “silent No” voter is encouraged by such talk.
Does anyone ever think of the gay people that were forced to hide their identity for years, for fear of what popular opinion would think of them? The Yes side’s arguments are stifled because they are forced to waste their time dealing with these red herrings.
Normally, I would not be bothered by the arguments of the No side. I would encourage my friends and family members who are gay or lesbian to disregard this. What bothers me is that these tactics are, horrifyingly, working.
My father was unsure of the referendum because he thought it was on the subject of gay adoption. My aunt text me today asking if priests would be forced to marry gay couples in churches— she was sure that this was not the case, but a colleague of hers was arguing with her at work.
We have to realise that our friends and family members, especially in rural Ireland, are not aware of all the issues. They hear whispers or listen to those who are adamant against this referendum, and the idea of change scares them.
They are not the “silent No”, but the “ill-informed No”. They will not vote No out of spite or hatred, unlike many on the campaign, but out of simple and innocent ignorance.
The issues of surrogacy and adoption have either already been dealt with in legislation, or need to be legislated upon. They have nothing to do with the referendum this Friday. To state otherwise is deceitful, is unfair and is unjust.
We need to be wary of this, and ask those who we think are doubtful or susceptible to these red herrings if they have any questions. It is important that we force nobody to vote one way or the other, but ensure that everyone is informed enough to make a decision on Friday, May 22nd.