Suppose black citizens were told they weren’t allowed to avail of the same form of marriage as other members of Irish society – that they’re just not normal people like everyone else?
Suppose Asian people in Ireland were told they weren’t really fit to make decisions regarding their own children.
Suppose the right of women to certain kinds of social protection was severely limited.
This state could easily be called an apartheid state.
Well, in Ireland today the Twenty-Six County establishment is about to legislate for such an apartheid state for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals.
The legislation that will be up for debate in Leinster House next month is the Civil Partnership Bill that the Fianna Fáil/Green Party government has introduced. The bill as proposed will provide certain legal rights for LGBT couples but will not provide the same rights and protection as are conferred under the auspices of civil marriage and they will also be excluded from rights under the constitution.
Gay couples will not have the same rights as heterosexual couples. In the area of tax and social welfare, the fact that gay couples can’t marry means that they may have to pay more tax. They may also not be able to access the same levels of social welfare benefit such as pension benefit. The Dublin government has already amended legislation in this area, in 2005, to specifically exclude gay couples from having the same rights as married or unmarried straight couples.
So, when in relation to the Civil Partnership Bill, the political establishment says it will deal with these aspects with another piece of legislation at some point in the future, it is rather difficult to trust their sincerity.
The most worrying aspect of the Civil Partnership Bill, though, is how it treats the rights of gay couples in relation to their children; in fact, the bill fails to mention this at all. The Twenty-Six County Constitution declares that family life can only be based on marriage. Now, with marriage being inaccessible to gay couples and the Civil Partnership Bill ignoring the issue, we are in a situation where it is impossible for gay parents to form legal bonds together or with their children.
Conversely, children in these families have no rights to have a legal relationship with their parents. According to the LGBT Noise campaign group, this means that gay couples are denied “the right to make educational and medical decisions for their children; it denies them the right to visit their children in hospital; it denies them custody and visitation should the adult relationship break down.”
It is also patently clear that to set up a different system with less legal rights for a minority cannot be adjudged to be fair for gay couples. Ireland now finds itself promoting apartheid while Spain, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Argentina, Portugal, Nepal, Mexico, Iceland, Holland and Belgium have already legislated for the LGBT community to have equal rights in this area.
Irish republicans and socialists have long campaigned on issues relating to national liberation and economic exploitation. They have also a proud history of standing up for the rights of victimised minorities. It is to be hoped that as many as possible will make their way to protest on Sunday.
March for Marriage Sunday, August 22 2010 at 2pm Assemble: City Hall, Dame Street, Dublin