Is the #MarRef Referendum about the composition of the ideal family?

I’ve finally gotten round to writing about the #MarRef and I have to say I love a good old divisive debate that dwells more on the emotional than the rational – the right versus left – nothing like it to get the blood up.

However, I’m beginning to tire of the following platitudes:

1. It takes a man and a woman to conceive and create a child.

2. Children have a right to a mother and father.

3. It is preferable for a child to be with their biological mother and father.

4. A family is a family if it contains children.

5. The Government’s new Children and Family Relationships Bill suggests mothers and fathers don’t matter to children.

I’m beginning to wonder if instead of the Marriage Referendum on May 22, we’ll be asked some Biology 101 multi choice questions along with a puzzler regarding the composition of the ideal family – perhaps on a weighted scale to account for various dichotomies: the gender of the adult participants and/or the presence or absence of children!

Let’s have a look at some facts and stats, because as always, actual data can be more telling than irrational bias and right wing propaganda. So here goes:

  • Contraceptives were only available without a valid medical prescription from a practising doctor since 1985.
  • The legislation that decriminalised homosexuality came into law in 1993.
  • The Family Law (Divorce) Act came in 1996.
  • According to the UK Department of Health, at least 159,779 women travelled from the Republic of Ireland to access safe abortion services in England and Wales between January 1980 and December 2013.

I suppose the concept of non-traditional families is difficult for us given our lovely history of the family ideal!
If we were to live according to the legislation above, there were no homosexuals, limited non-procreative sex even inside marriage, no unhappily married couples and absolutely no unwanted pregnancies in Ireland, in the past and still today.

We were so keen on upholding that family ideal that both Church and State colluded for decades depriving children of the right to be with their biological mother and instead held the ‘sinners’ in captive servitude while the ‘innocents’ had a right to (be sold to) a mother and father, usually overseas and always Catholic. You know what, I can’t even go further with this as it upsets me so much, see previous blog post here.

We don’t have a good track record in the ends we will go to to protect and project the ideal family so let’s stop trying!

Let’s start protecting families in whatever shape or form. Ideals are great in theory but hard for many of us.

At 29, I married the father of my three year old son because we both felt that was the right thing to do. Turns out it wasn’t the right thing for us so after a few years and another son, we split, we co-parent and it works. The problem with ideals is that you end up doing things you think you should rather than what’s best.

Who is anyone to say that my family is not a family?

Almost 1 in 4 families with children in Ireland is a one-parent family, (Census 2011).

In fact, I regularly bring this up, much to my teenage son’s chagrin, within the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors when I argue with hotels that the family rate of 2+2 no longer accurately reflects Irish society. Ditto at ticket desks at venues the length and breath of the country: “Have you a dysfunctional family rate?”,  I’ve been known to ask loudly, sometimes for my own amusement but usually as a point of principle.

You know I was never the girly girl who daydreamed about a big fat wedding day or a Prince Charming that would whisk me off my feet but I always saw myself with kids. I have my ideal family complete with cat and dog.

Anyone brave enough, in our throw away culture, to commit to each other deserves to be recognised in the Constitution no matter their gender.

So I’m still confused. I thought we were being asked whether we wanted to add the following to Article 41 of the Constitution:
“Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

If I’m asked that question, on or off a bended knee, on May 22, I’ll say I do!


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