When it comes to equality, you’re either for it or against it
Contributor Joe Munnelly talks LGBT equality in Ireland
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Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, it is hard to ignore the controversy surrounding an approaching referendum which is to bring equality to our complicated and somewhat hesitant shores. Having only freed ourselves from under the thumb of the Church, Ireland has moved a great many steps forward, no longer dictated by dogma and a conservative view which stood to stand above all else. Ireland has become a country open to new influence, new culture and the influx of other nationals surely to create a melting pot that does every society some good. With education and new attitudes, previous prejudices soon decline as society moves to greater heights and as a nation, we have come a long way from the repressive existence we once had. Progress takes time but when an understanding and pride for human rights makes itself known, standing idly by, in this day and age, as discrimination reveals its ugly head, is not acceptable.
LGBT communities above all others have felt the brunt of such discrimination. The penal laws which outlawed homosexuality were only abolished, shockingly, in 1993 and although sexual orientation is no longer a subject of criminality in this country, despite Ireland’s flea from the past, society still reveals an intolerance and push for restrictions from some of its members. Last year, it came as no surprise that such anger arose from the RTE scandal (and a scandal I believe it to be so) where views concerning homophobia were censored by The Saturday Night Show and those criticized were rewarded compensation from which a debate on the term homophobia and the right to freedom of speech were put in focus. Due to such uproar from many campaigning groups on censorship and inequality, such a debate was brought onto the very studio that caused such tension – a tension, it must be said, that needed to be let out.
The Iona institute among other conservative and Christian groups felt ‘bullied’ and vilified by the criticisms made by the public and gay ally groups. They claimed it was unfair to be labelled ‘homophobic’ and; ironically, the accusations of being against equality did not sit with them. It was almost laughable as those opposed to marriage equality both on the panel and floor did their best to claim that their views were not homophobic or discriminatory in any way and that they should be able to freely express their views.
Let me clear the air on a discussion which countless speakers it appears were unable to comprehend, including Susan Philips, a guest speaker who despite her objection to same-sex marriage did her best to deny that she once opposed the decriminalization of homosexuality. Despite her historic stance towards members of the LGBT community, it was astounding to watch as she, among others opposed to same-sex marriage tried to proclaim that they were simply expressing an opinion and that they shouldn’t and weren’t to be labeled.
Everyone has the right to express an opinion but no person is entitled to be free from criticism. It is every individual’s choice to express such a view but in doing so, an opinion is either right or wrong, it either stands for or against a motion and by expressing a view, your views are an expression of what you believe in and what you will or will not tolerate. It was farcical, that so many who believed same-sex marriage was a threat to the institution were so maddened by the thought people could argue that they were against equality. Everyone has the right to express an opinion whether they are conservative or liberal but by expressing such a view, you need to understand that in such a debate you are either for equality or against it.
A person may treat a minority with kindness, they may not ever in their lifetime attack them with either verbal or physical abuse but to have the neck to proclaim that you are not against equality in a debate which is fundamentally about marriage equality is ridiculous when you refuse two men or two women the same rights as yourself within the institution of marriage and ‘family’. You can’t have it both ways and you cannot pick and choose what groups of society deserve the same rights. Homophobia is not merely the fear and hatred of homosexuals, it is the intolerant attitudes people may have for them and the prejudice and discrimination that results.
The point of my article is clear - everyone is entitled to their opinion and for societal discourse to occur debates, arguments and agreements must happen without censorship, interference or bias. Although I may stand as a Gay ally, I understand the rights of people to express a view opposing my own. What no person has the right to is the contorting of meaning and truths and proclaiming to be one thing when in actual fact they are another. You either believe in equality or you don't, you can't pick and choose what groups of society deserve the same rights - It defeats the purpose of equality.
By standing against same-sex marriage, by standing to oppose the freedom to love whomever we choose - you are a hypocrite if you declare the want and need for equality as you restrict others from their right to a life with love. I write this article in the hope that those who oppose marriage equality will understand the gravity of their decision and that they can in no way hide from the meaning that such a vote entails.
You are either for or against equality – it is that simple.