Same-sex marriage, online gay marriage, nurse marriage equality, homophobia, family, children, civil-rights, human-rights, everybody’s rights, these are the words that sum up the past few weeks of my life. I’ve read countless papers, essays and newspaper articles on same-sex marriage. I’ve interviewed six people on the topic and talked to nearly everybody I’ve met, asking their opinions and views on the issue. I’ve even engaging in the odd debate about it all. Maybe, just maybe, after all of this, you’re interested in my views? If so then do please read on.

When I heard that the student movement were throwing their weight behind the campaign for marriage equality, I thought, ‘oh that might be something interesting to write about’. I decided to seek out people with opposing views on the issue of same-sex marriage, interview them and then write a series of features based on those interviews.

Initially I had intended on speaking to students alone, but there I encountered my first problem. Where were the students who opposed same-sex marriage? A poll released by UCD Students’ Union, a poll that has some serious flaws I might add, suggests that 90.2% of UCD students support “full equal marriage rights”, how on earth was I to find the other 9.8%? Where were they? Surely they were hiding is some dark shadowy corner reading papal encyclicals and vandalising maps that suggested the world might be round?

As my search for these elusive creatures went on in vain, I decided to look outside the gates of UCD for interviewees. The three that I eventually decided on, David Quinn, Brendan O’Neill and John Waters, I felt, represented a broad sweep of the arguments against same-sex marriage.

For the pro side I had my pick of politicians, journalists, social commentators, and yes, even our own dear SU. I eventually decided on three individuals that I felt would represent different strands of society, the social activist, the politician, and the student, namely, Monnine Griffith, Ivana Bacik and David Healy.

Now here’s where things get a little strange. I found them. I found the students who didn’t agree with same-sex marriage. It turns out I had been looking in all the wrong places. They weren’t crazy right-wing religious fundamentalists after all. Disappointingly, none of them even believed the world was flat. They were normal; some of them were even my friends. None of them however would speak on record about their views on same-sex marriage for fear of being branded homophobic, for fear of being ostracized by their fellow students, because they didn’t hold the approved opinion on this issue.

That got me wondering. How open is UCD? How liberal are we as students? Do we believe that everyone’s opinions deserve to be heard and deserve to be respected? Do we believe that people should be free to have different views and be free to hold those views without fearing discrimination or prejudice as a result of them? If we do believe this, and if we practice this in our day-to-day lives, then why were these UCD students so reluctant to be interviewed? This is something we all need to ask ourselves. If we’re going to play with words like ‘equality’ and ‘acceptance’, then we need to learn how to practice what we preach.

The second worrying thing I found during my research was the amount of people who support same-sex marriage, but don’t really have any rational as to why. They haven’t really thought about it, they just go along with the flow. These aren’t the kind of people who can be counted on to march on Sunday, or vote yes in any future possible referendum. Their “yes” to a pollster looks good when totting up the figures, but when they’re standing in a voting booth without the pressure or influence of anybody weighing on them will they still say yes?

It is my opinion, that for the campaign for same-sex marriage to achieve its goal real debate and real discussion needs to take place. This hasn’t really been the case so far. There hasn’t really been much debate or discussion; things have been a little one-sided.

Most of us congratulate ourselves on how modern and forward thinking we are. We clap with glee as we overcome oppressive traditions and create a new, equal Ireland, where everyone is valued. Then in the same breath we declare someone like John Waters an “asshole” or an “unbearable shit” because he disagrees with our progressive values and opinions. Is this really the mark of an equal Ireland, an Ireland that values diversity and where people can speak their minds and live their lives as they see fit without fear of ridicule or discrimination?

I spoke to six different people on the issue of same-sex marriage; they were all pleasant, cordial, articulate and logical. Some of them approached the subject from different angles than others might, and they all had slightly different opinions, but that doesn’t mean to say that one of them is right and the others wrong.

For me personally, the topic of same-sex marriage isn’t one that should not be viewed in black and white. LGBT people deserve to be treated as equal to any other law-abiding citizen. I don’t think it’s acceptable to discriminate in any way against someone because of his or her sexuality. Equally however I don’t think it’s acceptable to brand people as homophobic or to demonize them because they don’t agree with the idea of same-sex marriage. I have, in the process of researching for these articles, spoken to members of the LGBT community who don’t agree with same-sex marriage. Are they homophobic or bigoted?

I am thankful that we live in a country where we can get out of our beds on Sunday morning, get ready, then head into town and march for marriage equality. I am also thankful that so many people support the right of Irish men and women to marry the person they love, regardless of their gender. Equally, however, I hope that if advocates for traditional marriage were to organize a similar march in support of their views that they would be afforded the same respect that we expect to be shown to us.

Ireland is a fast changing place and it is only if we as a nation engage in open constructive discussion and debate that we will be able, in some way, to ensure those changes are for the better.

– James Grannell – Co-Editor –