As Ireland is on the verge of voting on same-sex marriage, Hannah contemplates what marriage and family building means to her
So The Republic of Ireland are about to vote on same-sex marriage. The 'No' voters, driven by the Catholic Church, are outraged – they say marriage, the bedrock of family life, should be between a man and a woman. What is it about marriage? Religious groups seem to feel they have exclusive rights over it, like they own it. To me marriage is a declaration of love and I happen to love another woman. I don’t feel I have the right to define who anyone else can marry or love. It’s nobody else’s business. How is my love for Rowena harming anyone else or society as a whole? I’m lucky to have been brought up in a non-religious, liberal family so marriage to me is not defined by historical or religious doctrine. My parents never got married so I wasn’t a girl who dreamed of getting married when she grows up. When I met Rowena wanting to marry her came as a surprise to me, but it was the only way to express how deeply I was in love with her. Marriage wasn’t an option then so we had to wait for Civil Partnerships to come in.
We also waited for CPs to start our family so we could both be parents by law. This is another area that upsets the ‘No’ voters: same-sex marriage will lead to same-sex parented families, which will deprive children of fathers or mothers which will be the breakdown of society. Because having a mother and a father is all you need? What if one of them is unable to provide the emotional support a child needs? What if both of them are unable to? My father was an alcoholic and my mother was 19 and a victim of childhood sexual abuse. They were less equipped to have children then myself and my partner by the time we became parents. They stayed trapped in a common law marriage that made them unhappy because of social pressure to stay married. Because it was better for the children. But I was relieved when my parents split up. Many people who have children are not equipped to do so - men, women, gay, straight, bi.
Many families go through divorce, death or separation. Families change, things happen. There is no ideal. This dictation that families must start with a man and a woman says that somehow the package trumps all however I bet more heterosexual people starting families are less equipped or qualified then the LGBT people starting families. We can't accidentally get pregnant. We can't accidentally adopt. We have to think it through and plan it, as do many heterosexual couples who have fertility issues. Do the ‘No’ voters realise that many same-sex parents agonise over their rights to have children and how they do it? Many of us choose to co-parent so our children will have a father and a mother in their parental mix. Many of us use known donors so our children can have a relationship with and know their donor father or mother. Others chose to be the only parents and enlist extended family or friends as role models of the gender that is missing. And some choose not to do either of these. These are all valid ways to start families. If we buy into excluding same-sex parents, we have to exclude single parents. Just as we don’t have the right to tell people who they can love or marry, we also don’t have the right to tell people how they should build their families. There are so many different types of family in our community and they should all be accepted, supported and celebrated. The refusal to do so is more likely to be the breakdown of society than this preoccupation with the package of a marriage or parents!