Monday, November 21, 2005

Same Sex partnerships Post No. 1

When a political party says it believes in equality and champions itself as an egalitarian party one would think that its policies would promote equality and so would its spokespersons.

All the major political parties in the Republic have said that they believe that same sex couples should have their relationships protected under the law. There have been varying degrees of recognition in these statements. Most of this has emanated without consultation with lesbians and gay men and also in the absence of a representative lobby which consults with its community and knows what people want.

With less than two weeks to go before the first civil partnerships take place in the UK the debate this side of the border has been stultified this year while Bertie Ahern parked the issue at the All Party Committee on the Constitution. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform says that same sex couples do not want marriage and there is no sign yet of any legislation being tabled which addresses the issue.

The Deputy Leader of the Labour Party has joined what debate there is in saying the Party does not advocate marriage for same sex couples. What is the word marriage the code for? What great alarm springs to the mind of politicians when marriage is mentioned? What do politicians actually  know about the lives of lesbians and gay men in Ireland in the 21st century?

Now the Labour Party leadership has not asked anyone what they want or consulted the membership on what it believes. The LGBT section is instigating discussion to change party policy and one hopes that the party’s mind is not made up already without actually checking out what the facts are.

I don’t want to get hung up on the M word. The Civil Partnerships Act in the UK covers every thing – all this issues and is just called something else. The only flaw is that it’s only for lesbian and gay couples but people seem to be just getting on with it. Politicians have said that it is everything bar the M word – all the same rights including protection for children. If I heard that level of understanding and respect from Irish politicians I would be happy. However no Irish politician has got that far yet.

A lack of consultation and also a  lack of lobbying and research leads to a fear and ignorance about adoption and same-sex couples. The M word seems to mean children and it seems  a step too far.

The ignorance I refer to is the ignorance about same sex families in Ireland who are parenting already or trying to start families. The ignorance is about the fact that the eggs and sperm of many queers work – coming out of the closet does not make one automatically infertile or remove the desire to bring up a family. The ignorance is also about the role of non-biological parents and their lack of rights under the law.

The anti-gay brigade would have the politicians believe that same sex couples will adopt every child in the world if they are let and turn them into queers too. Now I have not heard a politician say that yet but no doubt they are being told it. They don’t seem to realise that those couples who desire protection for themselves and/or their families have many ways of having a family.  

If political parties and the queer rights lobby did some consulting they would find many queers who just want what everyone else does. Security and a future and respect and commitment from the society.  They might find a growing number of celtic tiger homos and dykes who are fed up supporting straight society and getting nothing back in return. They might find the families of these queers also fed up at their sons and daughters being ignored by the state and being told your relationships are different, too different for us.

Being told that very few same-sex couples want marriage without actually checking what the politicians mean by marriage never mind those who wish it is not going to get votes for the parties.

Ah but its not queer votes they are worried about, given Bertie’s new found position as spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Ireland its clear which audience he will be playing to for some time yet. And Liz McManus plays to the same audience too.  The negative tones about gay relationships are being set from the start, rather than celebrating them and welcoming them, these relationships are being told that they are not good enough and they will never be good enough. A change in wording and attitude is all that is needed to stop those in same sex relationships being, feeling and appearing as second class citizens. However it seems that the path of a queer to a family, a future and a right to family life will continue to be on the margins and with many potholes and pain.  

No party will take on the issue – actually there is not much to take on, but no party is really listening and few are doing the talking either.


At 17:49, Blogger EWI said...

What is the word marriage the code for?

That's the nub of the problem. Mention the "M" word, and no-one's going to touch this issue with a barge-pole.
Something is needed like the arrangements in the UK (even though I can see someone bringing a challenge to it, if it indeed doesn't cover hetero couples as you say)


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