Think North

Austerity, women & health inequalities


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Some thoughts on the marriage equality referendum

I am in Newcastle airport on my way to fly home to Ireland to vote in the marriage equality referendum taking place tomorrow. I will of course, be voting yes, because no one should be discriminated against based on their sexuality. However, here are some caveats that come with this yes vote:

  • The extent to which the entirety of Irish social media is focusing on marriage equality, as if to marry is the most obvious indicator of equality for a gay couple, is overly simplistic.¬†Focusing on marriage as a symbol of equality (specifically in such a Patriarchal and Catholic-biased society as Ireland), ignores the highly repressive and inherently uneven legal and social relationship that emerge¬†directly from entering into a marriage contract.
  • We need to work hard to ensure equality for all is achieved in Irish society. In the entire marriage equality debate, there has been, as far as I am aware, a serious lack of discussion on the wider context of inequality in Ireland. Homelessness and an inherently unequal housing situation, discrimination against minority (ethnic and religious) groups, and, most starkly, the uneven place of women in Irish society. I refer to the latter in terms of the legislative subordination of women through a denial of their reproductive sovereignty, and a constitution which still holds the important position of mothers as belonging in the home.

By all means, I will be voting for marriage equality, because I would never consider otherwise, but this should be a starting point, and not an end goal. If, and when, the marriage equality legislation is passed, we must not be satisfied, but say ‘now what?’. Until women can access safe and legal abortion, we have major reform to the direct provision system, and the many other indicators of a complexly hierarchical and ultimately uneven society are addressed and reversed, marriage equality remains one isolated symbol of equality, a symbol and nothing more.