When all else fails, use the children. That was always the way of the religious Right, not just in Ireland, but worldwide, and so it remains today.
Clearly aware that blatant opposition to same-sex relationships will be counter-productive, the likes of the Iona “Institute” have changed tack, attempting to focus instead on the rights of children. But in doing that, ironically, the Iona “Institute” does exactly what it accuses its opponents of — trying to redefine marriage. By insisting that procreation is an integral element of marriage, the Ionanists exclude all post-menopausal women, all men who, for one reason or another, cannot father children, and everyone who feels disinclined to have offspring.
In other words, marriage is what the Ionanists decide it ought to be, not what it actually is in the wide, non-specific world where there are no certainties and where people muddle through as best they can. In the eyes of the religious Right, there is no room for nuance, no room for anything other than certainty, prescribed ways of being and approved forms of family. Iona’s eyes are fixed firmly on the region between the belly-button and the knees, as usual with religious obsessives.
One of the silliest fallacies they continue to parrot is the deeply dishonest position of the Irish Catholic bishops, that marriage equality will deprive children of the right to a mother and a father. You would think, to listen to David Quinn and Breda O’Brien, that there was some proposal to knock down doors, kidnap children and hand them over to the ravening gays.
Here’s a nasty distortion that we hear from them lately: if gays are allowed to marry, it won’t be possible to give preference to a heterosexual couple over a same-sex couple in an adoption.
Firstly, that statement is filled with contempt for the adoptive children they claim to have so much concern for. They make the child sound like a prize in a cheap TV contest. I didn’t get the baby but I won the electric kettle.
There are no bidding wars for children, except in the fevered imaginations of the Ionanists. This sort of nonsense is the modern equivalent of the despicable Hello Divorce, Bye Bye Daddy nonsense of the 90s and it plays to the silliest fears of Middle Ireland, which of course is the constituency identified by Iona as the one most likely to deliver a result.
Secondly, the decision on who gets custody of a child will be made on the basis not of sexual orientation but on who is more suitable to adopt. It might be the heterosexual couple, it might be the same-sex couple and it might be a single person, depending on the individual circumstances. To suggest otherwise is both a cynical attempt to stir up fear, and also a vote of contempt for the professionalism of the Adoption Board.
I don’t know why Breda O’Brien or David Quinn are so obsessed with what goes on in families, given the near-certainty that they have never personally experienced any sort of dysfunctionality or abuse, but they certainly seem to have an inordinate mistrust of normal decent people, a mistrust so strong that families need to be regulated by law.
This morning on RTE, Breda had her wife-swapping sodomites moment, when Audrey Carville pressed her on a fact of Irish life. I’ll paraphrase for brevity. Parroting the usual Iona line about the need for a mother and a father, Breda found herself stuck for words when confronted with a hard question. Being asked hard questions is not a common experience for either of the Iona spokespeople on Irish media.
Isn’t it a fact, said Carville, that grandmothers have, for generations, raised their daughters’ children where the father was absent?
Breda tried to spin it as a tragedy that fathers were missing, but Carville pressed her.
What’s the difference to the child? What difference is there between being raised by a grandmother and mother, and being raised by two other women?
Despite Breda’s evasions, Audrey Carville stuck to the question. What is the difference? until eventually Breda’s mask slipped and she spat back an acid rejoinder: Should we allow mothers to marry their daughters?
It was a comment as remarkable for its nastiness as it was for its sheer stupidity, but it also revealed an interesting fact. The anti-equality lobby are on a script, and it doesn’t take much to knock them off it. They’re not actually that impressive, despite calling themselves an Institute, which would be illegal in most European countries.
Nevertheless, Breda had a minor victory, even if it was at the cost of looking like a complete fool. She succeeded in making the debate about children, even though marriage equality has absolutely nothing to do with that.
Yesterday on TodayFM, David Quinn produced a bizarre moment when he seemed to suggest that there would be competition for IVF between straight and gay couples in a weird Battle of the Ovaries, and when he detected the nation laughing at him, went on to quote German law, appearing to forget that the discussion is about the Irish constitution.
As I said, they’re not that impressive when you get behind the bluster.
Here’s their problem. Iona have been outflanked by the bug-eyed bigots, like Catholic Voice. They can’t afford to be seen as outright homophobic, drooling fundamentalists, and therefore their options are limited. It seems they’ve staked out the ground they intend to fight this battle on and that ground is adoption.
Well and good.
Every time you hear Dave and Breda talking about children, remind them that the dreaded gays can already adopt, and that the referendum is about marriage.
This anti-equality lobby isn’t all that impressive when you get behind the memorised script.
All articles on the Iona Institute