As almost 200,000 of you have now seen as of this post’s publication, Lolek Ltd. recently published the following video:
Those of you who are resolved to vote Yes on the 22nd will almost certainly find this incredibly frustrating. Those already decided to vote No, probably not so much. However for the benefit of the thousands in between, I’d like to ensure that you know what this video is actually trying to say. While it presents itself as a straight-talking, fact-based piece, it is in fact one of the most surgically precise, cynical, and manipulative pieces of campaign material distributed so far. Here’s a line-by-line translation:
“The government says this referendum is all about two simple words – ‘I do’.”
Immediately, the narrator wishes us to oppose marriage equality by framing it as somehow forced down our throat by an unpopular government. There’s been huge and vocal opposition to many and varied government policies over the past four years, however support for same-sex marriage has also been touted by every single opposition party. For the record that’s Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein, the AAA, the Socialists, People before Profit, and every independent with the exception of one Mattie McGrath (IND) of North Tipperary. So to say it’s just the government in favour of this is a massive omission. Every part of the elected political spectrum is in agreement here, even parties that normally exist entirely in opposition to the government. The most vocal politicians in opposition to the referendum are senators Mullen and Healy-Eames, neither of whom were elected by anyone. So perhaps in the interest of accuracy, this could be translated as “165 of 166 TDs” or “99.4% of elected representatives”. This of course wouldn’t fit the agenda, because Lolek are hoping to confuse you into voting against the government. That’s not what we’re voting on, but more on that further down.
“This is very misleading, because we aren’t simply being asked to redefine marriage.”
Actually, that’s not what anyone’s being asked. One of the classic misdirections of the No campaign has been to try to convince you and I and every other Irish voter that marriages are somehow under attack. What’s actually being voted on is the opportunity to extend the existing definition of marriage to include our gay and lesbian compatriots. What we’re actual voting on is whether to add a clause to the existing legislation of Article 41 of Bunreacht na hEireann (viewable here on the referendum commisson’s site) as follows:
4 Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.
That’s in no way a change to the existing definition of marriage between heterosexuals. It’s also nothing – nothing – to do with any religious institutions marriage practices, which as I’ve already covered elsewhere are entirely separate from state legislation. No text is being removed or altered, we’re merely specifying that we also want same-sex couples to be allowed to employ this civil liberty currently afforded heterosexual citizens as equals.
“We are also being asked to redefine the family, Because the section of the constitution the government wants us to change is article 41, called the family.”
Our first logical leap of faith, and an incredibly nonsensical one. To claim – despite all textual evidence – that the family is being redefined simply because of the article’s name reeks of desperation and straw-clutching. By this logic, surely we’re redefining the state, seeing as it’s the Irish constitution we’re voting to amend? Is adding an extension to a house “redefining the county” ? This line of argument is barely-cloaked hyperbole, a tactic used time and time again by conservatives to justify continued exclusion and regression.
“If we change this as the government wants…”
There’s that pesky government again. You’re not supposed to like them, remember? It’s their idea, it must be a bad one! It’s us versus them, how could you possibly think anything they agree with is a good idea?
“…two men or two women will be given the right to marry and have children.”
Two men or two women already have the right to have children through surrogacy and adoption. In fact, every actual authority on both topics – government and NGO – has agreed that there will be absolutely no change to adoption or surrogacy laws as a result of this referendum. Plenty of children in Ireland are already being raised by loving gay couples, single parents, unmarried heterosexual couples, an uncle, an aunt, their grandparents, foster parents….the list of familial configurations in Ireland is near endless. But the Lolek agenda is to pretend these families don’t exist. Or, as in the case of Mothers and Fathers matter spokesperson Eileen King, see them as “just circumstance”. Surely this is the most brazen lie in the entire No campaign.
“But two men can never give a child a mother and a father and two women can never give a child a mother and a father.”
This is technically correct. And, like the above line, requires you to immediately disregard the thousands of children who – for whatever reason – are already without either a mother or a father. A widow can’t give her children their father back. Should we then pretend they she’s any less of a mother? And more importantly, given that the entire argument about raising children is entirely separate, why is it being clung to so dearly by Lolek? The answer is simple – they’re attempting to warp the facts in order to manipulate the undecided voter.
“If we vote yes on may 22nd we will be forced to pretend that two fathers or two mothers are just the same as a mother and a father.”
Actually, no. At no point has anyone made the case that gay people are the same as straight people. They’re not. They’re gay. Similarly, tall people aren’t the same as short people. They’re taller. Old people aren’t the same as young people. They’re older. What all of these groups have in common though is that each must be seen as equal in the eyes of the law. Here we come upon the most consistently trotted-out linguistic backflip of the No campaign. Equal does not mean the same. We’re not asking anyone to say that gay parents are the same as heterosexual parents. We are however insisting that all our nation’s citizens – regardless of their gender or sexuality – be treated equally by the courts, by the government, and by our society. And because it apparently needs to be stated for a third time, this referendum is not about parenthood,it’s about marriage.
” This is why marriage equality is really inequality for children. So if you think a mothers love is unique and irreplaceable and so is a fathers love then vote no on may 22nd.”
Of course a mother’s love is irreplaceable. So is a father’s love. Sadly for the No campaign, neither statement has anything to do with what we’re actually supposed to be discussing. This climax for the video above may as well say “So if you believe that love is good, and that the government is bad, please vote No”. It’s utter balderdash, clinically designed to fool you into answering a question that nobody is actually asking at the expense of a minority in our society. And if we fail that minority now, we lose the opportunity to make a better, more inclusive society for all of us – and that includes the children.