Sing out and do your bit for the fight against those who would deny us equality, says Brian Finnegan.
Last month my family and my sister’s husband’s family came together to celebrate my nephew’s first holy communion. When I say celebrate, none of us were actually celebrating the religious aspect of this ingrained Catholic right of passage – rather we were celebrating for the sake of celebration, using the occasion as an excuse to bring us all together.
Before any of that kind of celebrating could be done, there was the communion service to be gotten over with. The church was full, so I stood in the equally packed foyer, half-listening to the long ceremony. Just inside the door there was a little table with leaflets and free newspapers laid out on it. A front-page headline jumped out at me from one of them – ‘Why The Family Matters’ – and to counteract my boredom, I lifted it up and began to read.
The article was nothing new – the usual thesis, telling me that the superior, God-approved family model was the one where there was a mother and a father – but reading it in the context of a rural church setting, surrounded by hoards repeating the ‘Our Father’ (even though a large percentage of them probably hardly ever go to mass), I found it particularly disquieting.
Later, at my sisters’ house, I brought the article up. All of the grown-ups there, including three grandparents, three pairs of heterosexual parents, and six single, straight aunts and uncles, agreed with me that there are many kinds of family and that each of them is as important as the other, including same-sex parented families. I said I assumed they all would be voting ‘yes’ in next year’s referendum on same-sex marriage, and again everyone answered in the affirmative.
“It’s a shoe-in,” my brother added.
‘What if someone calls to your house and says that statistics prove that children of same-sex parents don’t so as well as the children of a mother and a father, that voting for gay marriage will negate your own marriage?’ I asked my sister’s mother-in-law. “What if someone instills just a little bit of doubt in your mind?”
“When in doubt, I always vote ‘no’,” she replied.
My brother is wrong. Gay marriage is not going to be a shoe-in at all. In fact, the very idea that it’s a shoe-in is detrimental to the cause. In Croatia last December 65% of voters backed a statement that marriage is between a man and a woman, with the result that the country’s constitution will be amended to ban gay marriage. Given that Croatia has a centre-left government, the majority vote against same-sex marriage was a surprise. Everyone thought it was a shoe-in, so they didn’t feel any pressing urge to go out and vote. Those who didn’t want it to be a shoe-in came out in force.
Motivating those in favour of gay marriage to register to vote and to go to the polling stations on the day will be a huge part of the campaign in the lead up to the referendum. It is largely felt that gay marriage has majority support with younger voters, but getting them to the polls is a difficult job.
For those who do take it as their responsibility to go out and vote, the campaign against gay marriage is going to be subtle, but intensive. Spurred on by successes in Russia, Uganda and Nigeria, among other countries introducing draconian anti-gay laws, powerful forces will target this country, aiming to get the Irish people to vote against gay marriage. They will pour money into campaigns that will seek to introduce doubt into Irish minds. Debates about homophobia will be avoided, while ‘reasonable’ arguments will be made in the media, on doorsteps, and in poster campaigns, designed to get people to wonder if they will be doing the right thing if they vote ‘yes’.
In the face of this gay rights campaigners may have right on their sides, but they will have limited resources to fund both getting pro-gay marriage people out to register and vote, and alleviating the doubts that will be subtly sewn by wealthy anti-gay marriage campaigns. There will have to be a concerted effort on behalf of all of us in talking to our friends and families about why a ‘yes’ vote is a vote for equality of all Irish citizens, but in the meantime there is something else we can do to ensure we have fighting power.
The Big Gay Sing will take place in The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on June 15. Staged by the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus in association with Glória, it brings together 250 people on stage to lead a mass sing along to gay-loved classics. Everyone, including The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, is giving their services for free, so that every penny made from this event can go towards the Marriage Equality campaign.
The lowest price tickets are sold out, but there is a range of options still available, including corporate and group tickets that include lots of frills. There are Premium Charity tickets available at ticketmaster.ie for €125, and if you can possibly afford it, this is the option I would urge you to take. I know times are tough, and that it’s a lot of money to ask, but if you consider it your personal contribution to a campaign that will fight on your behalf, to get same-sex marriage across the line in the face of powerful and threatening forces, it’s not that much.
I’m sure that like me, you don’t want to wake up the morning after a referendum on same-sex marriage to find that what happened in Croatia happened in Ireland and that your fellow citizens have listened to the nay-sayers and voted against your equal rights.
A Premium Charity ticket will not only get you singing your heart out for equality at a great event, you’ll be invited to an exclusive wine and canapés reception in the Circle Club before the event and given the best seats in the house. And that’s what I call a win-win.
Book your tickets for The Big Gay Sing here.
Follow Brian Finnegan on Twitter here.