I usually tend not to comment too much on issues I feel I may be ignorant about, but I have worked myself into quite the rage over Fine Gael Election 2011 candidate Lucinda Creighton’s comments that (and I’m paraphrasing) the primary function of marriage is to procreate and raise children. She has said that while she supports the Civil Partnership Bill, she feels that marriage is the preserve of heterosexual couples. So, to borrow a saying from many others who have already commented on the issue, she thinks all people are equal, but some are more equal than others. Lucinda Creighton, by the way, is the Fine Gael Spokesperson on Equality.
I glanced at thejournal.ie’s Facebook link to their poll on the issue earlier, before getting into the car for a 40 minute drive, and spent those 40 minutes getting into a state where it would be normal for some teeth to be gnashed.
How can it still be possible that the ‘institution’ of marriage is still so inextricably linked to Catholic, or even Christian ideals? I put the word institution in inverted commas because I don’t like calling it an institution. I think it makes it sound like a old fashioned, cobwebby practice, based on old fashioned, cobwebby traditions.
As I sit here, I’m finding it quite difficult to decide which point I want to make first, or how to even make those points. In my eyes, marriage has two functions:
1: It allows two people who are in love to make a commitment to each other. It also allows then to make that commitment known to their families and friends, and to celebrate that commitment any way they see fit.
2: It has a legal basis when it comes to property, money and in some cases, children.
With those functions of marriage in my mind, I struggle to see how any politician or government has the right to legislate on who can enter into a marriage. Why is there a difference between a ‘marriage’ and a ‘civil partnership’? I’ll tell you why. It’s because a large number of people still associate marriage with the Church. I can’t say the majority of people associate it with the Church, because I don’t have those figures, but I would say that it is a large amount. I probably have seen it that way too in the past, but because I’ve seen friends get married outside of the Church, in Humanist ceremonies etc, and because I believe that people of any sexual orientation should have the right to be married, I’ve stopped thinking that way.
I will be attending a wedding in a few months where the ceremony will take place in a registry office because the bride has been married before, and therefore is not allowed to have a ceremony in a Catholic church, because the Church does not recognise divorce. But, because marriage is a civil contract, it doesn’t make even a smidge of difference that the ceremony won’t take place in a church. She’ll still be married at the end of the day, albeit without having stood in front of a priest.
Therefore a marriage (ie a civil contract) and a civil partnership are essentially the same thing. Only they’re not, are they Lucinda Creighton? Because people still like to think that couples are ‘married in the eyes of God’.
I think I’m so angry because I don’t see why somebody who wants to take a seat in Ireland’s house of power, who wants to stand for the human rights of the people of this country, and who claims to speak for equality, would make such a personal, and probably religious-based statement on such a senstive topic. Yes, she’s entitled to her opinion, but it is her own, personal opinion, and one which I believe she has now made an election issue.
I’m also angry at the continued hold the Catholic Church has over so many aspects of Irish life, from schools to marriages to lifestyles. Again, people are entitled to their opinion, from the most devout of Catholics, to those who just hold on to a little bit of faith (but I’m afraid I can’t reconcile myself with those who hold the opinion that evolution is a myth. I just can’t get my head around that one). But when that opinion threatens to continue to influence the running of a country and the treatment of ALL of its peoples, then it is WRONG.
I’ve never paid much attention to the religious affiliations of Irish political parties, although I must admit that my ears pricked up when I saw it mentioned that Eamon Gilmore had ‘come out’ as an Atheist. I always thought it was such a shame that to be the president of the United States, you have to constantly tell the citizens how mad you are about God, whereas here in Ireland, you rarely hear politicians use the G word or refer to their religious beliefs.
Now though, I realise that that was my own ignorance, and that it’s still there, an unneccessary and oudated undercurrent. Thanks Lucinda, for bringing it to my attention.