Referendum a product of long-waged campaign of struggle from below
This coming Friday a referendum takes place in Ireland that, if passed, will enshrine marriage equality in the country’s constitution. Polls show more than 70 percent in favor of the proposal. However many commentators expect the result to be much closer. Over the weekend, the message from Catholic Church pulpits was for people to vote ’No’. Smaller evangelical Christian churches have also called for a no vote. But the Catholic church’s authority has been significantly weakened in recent years in Ireland, particularly over scandals involving church leaders’ covering up child abuse by priests and religious orders.
Below, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) reporters look at the issues in the referendum campaign and the Radical Yes Campaign.
The Radical Yes Campaign was launched by ROSA (Reproductive rights against Oppression, Sexism and Austerity) and is supported by the Anti-Austerity Alliance and the Socialist Party. The campaign advocates for a Yes vote for Marriage Equality on 22 May as well as highlighting the need for a broad struggle to achieve full equality for the LGBTQ community.
No room for complacency
A Yes vote would be a huge step in achieving legislative equality for same sex couples. The polls indicate this referendum is likely to pass. This is indicative of how the working class in Ireland now favour a more progressive, secular society. The Catholic Church and its conservative, right wing ideology is in an ever dwindling minority. But its influence is unavoidable.
The presence of Catholic doctrine in schools and hospitals means LGBTQ people we will never be truly liberated whilst being educated in schools that tell them that homosexuality is “gravely immoral” (From Vatican statement 31.07.03 “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons”).
Therefore it is important that we do not lapse into complacency. We must mobilise the masses to vote for what would be a historic breakthrough for LGBTQ rights and a significant step away from the repressive past where the Catholic Church ruled. We must use the momentum around this campaign to push for real change and challenge homophobia in all sections of society.
The Radical Yes Campaign seeks to:
- Demand a separation of church and state with a secular and comprehensive sex education programme as part of a school’s curriculum
- Abolish all homophobic laws such as section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Acts which allows for schools to fire, or not hire people whose sexual orientation, gender identity or family status is not in line with their religious ethos. Similarly the ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men must be ended.
- Link LGBTQ rights with other progressive struggles such as the demand for the repeal of the 8th amendment and legislating for abortion rights.
- Publicly denounce the homophobic NO side who claim to have the interests of society and children at the heart of the campaign. They ignore the reality that LGBTQ people are already raising children but are not afforded the same rights and supports as heterosexual couples. Their concern for children also rings hollow given their lack of opposition to government cut-backs in education, health and child benefit.
Struggle needed for full equality
These demands will not be won without us pressuring the government into action. The referendum on 22 May should be seen as a product of a long-waged campaign of struggle from below. We cannot rely on the Fine Gael / Labour government to bring about real equality.
This government is in political leadership of a thoroughly unequal society where the wealth of the richest 300 people grew by €34 billion over the last five years while working class people have faced rapid deterioration of their living standards due to crippling austerity.
The government’s unashamed stance on direct provision and its refusal to hold a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment [constitutional ban on abortion] should point to the fact that “granting” oppressed groups their rights is not exactly top of their agenda. The establishment cannot shut their ears to the screaming dissatisfaction at the backwards, austerity-burdened nature of modern Ireland. The Radical Yes Campaign wants to keep the volume up! We will push for an end to stigma and discrimination and fight for bodily autonomy and sexual freedom.