Why I’m voting Yes

I notice a lot of people are excited at the prospect of voting Yes. I’m finding that quite hard.

I’d prefer not to be voting Yes. I’d prefer not to have to answer the question. Why do I find myself in a situation where I and others are granted the power to decide whether or not other people should be treated as full and equal human beings, with the same rights as everyone else?

Why should I get to decide that? I don’t want to be part of a collective that arrogates the power to decide such things. No-one should be part of such a thing, be it with regard to LGBT people, women, or migrants. So, it’s my duty to vote Yes, because people have no business and no right to make decisions such as this, as if they had a legitimate power over others. Anything that weakens this despotic sense of entitlement, anything that weakens its oppressive hold over people’s lives, is all to the good. So: yes.

I’ll be glad that people will feel a weight off their shoulders when the Yes vote wins. No-one should have to go about their lives fearful or ashamed or traumatised or bullied simply because of who they are. I’ll be glad that people will feel a sense of a victory won, one that will have arisen because of decades-long campaigns and courageous struggles for equal rights, despite horrendous ingrained bigotry, state persecution and generalised homophobic violence. Such struggles are the things to be truly celebrated, since they created the possibility of such a referendum, the nation-state hosting the referendum, not so much: even if a Yes vote might appear a marker of progress, even if it makes Ireland a more attractive place. You’re not supposed to oppress people: why congratulate yourself for stopping?

I think it’s great that lots of people are getting out and canvassing for a Yes vote, and I think it’s great that the rearguard action being fought by the most reactionary right-wing elements of the Catholic Church appears headed for ignominious collapse. The same people emoting about children’s rights can be found on other days cheering on high-altitude bombings of civilian populations conducted by the US or Israeli military. They affect concern about families and the ‘right to a mother and a father’ whilst supporting policy measures that drive families into poverty and misery and deprive children and their parents of the semblance of a dignified life. For them, the family is a happy little concentration camp where children learn time-honoured proper order and respect for arbitrary authority. Anything that strips away their hold on Irish society is all to the good, too.

It’s important to remember, however, that Article 41, even with the amendment allowing for marriage equality, is still a revoltingly reactionary piece of text, in which ‘mothers’ have ‘duties in the home’, but such ‘duties’ are not recognised as labour; rather, a woman’s ‘life within the home’ is a ‘support’ to ‘the State’.

What is more, why should the State ‘guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded’? There are countless families in many shapes and sizes where there is no marriage involved -and hence ‘the Family’ remains an ideological abstraction in the image of ultramontane reactionaries. The provision for marriage equality operates within a very particular framework, one designed to maintain the regime of private property, and hence one that militates against other substantive expressions of human equality, including economic justice. But a Yes vote will ease those problems, not deepen them.

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