On May 22nd, a referendum on recognising equal marriage rights for same-sex couple will take place in the South. The political establishment has been forced to concede this in the face of overwhelming public support. The Socialist Party, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and its public representatives are actively campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote. Polls suggest that an overwhelming 76% favour ending the discrimination.
This reflects the hugely progressive shift which has taken place in public opinion in recent decades, with working class people breaking en masse from the doctrine of the Catholic Church which had dominated the Southern state since its inception. The horrific abuse carried out and covered up by the Church and its institutions have completely undermined its authority.
The ‘No’ campaign – made up of fringe religious elements – has tried to cynically play on people’s concerns for children with slogans like “Every child deserves a mother and father”. This is blatantly homophobic and is an insult to the same-sex couple and single parents raising children today. These same people have not uttered a word of opposition to the government’s austerity measures which have has a truly negative impact on the lives of many children.
Presuming a ‘Yes’ vote, Northern Ireland will become the only area in Britain and Ireland to continue to deny marriage equality. The majority of people here support an end to this discrimination but it is opposed by bigoted politicians from across the sectarian divide. Meanwhile, gay men face a religiously-motivated ban on giving blood and some politicians are attempting to enshrine the right to discriminate into law through the so-called ‘conscience clause’.
We have to fight back! The experience of the South shows that we can win change. We need to build an active, campaigning LGBT movement which will mobilise on the streets in opposition to the politicians and demand an end to all forms of homophobic and transphobic discrimination.