As part of our series of articles on the debate around same-sex marriage, there the College Tribune sat down, physician tea in hand, with Moninne Griffith, director of Marriage Equality, to see what she had to say about the topic.

Griffith defines marriage as, “a commitment between loving committed adults, who want to have that relationship recognized and protected by the state and by friends and families and fellow citizens.”

She explained that the push for marriage equality is “about having access to marriage and the choice to get married and therefore have your families and your loved ones protected…and treated equally.” She continued, saying that from the other side it’s about exclusion and the ban on marriage for same-sex couples and how that discrimination impacts on the lives of LGBT people in Ireland and their loved ones and their children.

“It’s mainly about equality and fairness”, said Griffith. She expressed her belief that the values behind the campaign for marriage equality, family and valuing love and commitment are all Irish values. “Isn’t that what we want for everybody?”, asked Griffith, continuing, “We’re not talking about negative things, we’re not arguing over anything except people being in love with each other and just wanting the same rights as the people they love.”

Griffith believes that the ban on, and opposition to, same-sex marriage is linked to homophobia, anti-gay violence and bullying in schools. She believes that marriage equality is, “a civil rights and a human rights issue.” She continued, “I think until there is equality for our families and our relationships it’s a very mixed message to be saying to young people, you know, ‘it’s not okay for you to be bullied in school, but you can’t have the same dreams and plans for your life as your brothers and sisters because you’re LGBT.’ That’s not okay, and I think that reinforces stigma and reinforces a negative attitude and a negative status in peoples minds when they think of LGBT people.”

Commenting on the argument that children fare best when raised by their own biological mother and father Griffith stated, “all the reputable research from the biggest institutions of academia all say that the outcomes are the same for kids who are raised by lesbian and gay parents as by heterosexual parents. It’s about love, boundaries, stability, all those things and…gender and sexuality actually rate very low, and don’t really rate at all in what it takes to be good parents.” She stressed that even without these studies, she knows this to be true, saying, “I’ve met enough kids who were raised by gay and lesbian parents to know they’re fantastic kids, because they’re loved by their parents and their parents do their best for them the same as most other parents in Ireland.”

Continuing on the theme of children, Griffith said, “we also believe that you should protect children and their rights, and that’s why we want the same rights for children in LGBT families. Currently… if I decide with my same-sex partner to have a kid and she gives birth to a child, there is no legal mechanism for me to become that child’s parent… I am a stranger to that child even though he or she thinks of me as a parent [and] sees no difference between me and [their] biological mum… I can’t sign for a passport; I can’t give consent for medical treatment or school stuff. If he or she is taken to hospital I don’t get a say in hospital treatment. If my partner drops dead and… hasn’t made a will appointing me a guardian, I may lose all rights, you may have parents that are legally the next of kin coming in and saying, ‘no, sorry we’re the next of kin, we’ll take the child.’”

She went on to criticize those who claim to speak for children, saying, “those people who say… what about the children, what about the children, they never ask the children. As far as I know they have never gone and spoken to and asked the opinions of children who have grown up with lesbian and gay parents… we did our voices of children project… one of the young men who took part said, very clearly, he was sick of hearing people like David Quinn on the radio talking about children in this abstract form, as if they didn’t exist already, but not coming to seek him out and find out what he thought about the issue.” She stresses, “it’s because we want equality and the same protection for children of gay and lesbian parents that we are pushing for marriage equality.”

Griffith also stressed that what was being sought was civil marriage, that the marriage equality campaign wasn’t trying to force churches to recognize same-sex unions, “it’s not about that, it’s about getting married in a registry office and having that marriage recognized by the Irish state and [having] all the constitutional and legislative and social status and protection.” She said however that the church should stay out of a state matter like this, stating, “we know for a fact that they lobbied very hard around the time of the Civil Partnership legislation… I’m sure they’re in there already lobbying very strongly against [same-sex marriage].”

Recently many people have been calling on the Taoiseach to publicly declare his position on same-sex marriage. Griffith feels that pushing him into a corner isn’t helpful, stating that she “would much rather that people speak to him and raise awareness about issues faced by same-sex families and how the marriage ban harms them.”

Speaking about the passing of legislation for same-sex marriage, Griffith said, “it would be a win win situation for the government. I don’t think this government are necessarily going to be able to sort out the mess of our economy in the lifetime of the government, but they could achieve some major social change and marriage equality could be… a legacy for them to be proud of.”

Marriage Equality have organized a tell your TD campaign where they want as many people as possible to meet their TD and discuss the topic of same-sex marriage, showing their support or telling their stories. Griffith sees this as a way for everybody to get involved in the campaign, saying, “I think it’s an exciting thing to be part of, it’s changing Ireland for the better, it’s making history. Who doesn’t want to be able to say, ‘I did that, I was part of that, I did my bit then to make sure this got across the line.’” People can also get involved in the campaign by volunteering or fundraising.

Griffith expresses the main point of her argument saying, “gay and lesbian people want to get married for the same reason as everybody else. Mainly it’s about love and commitment and then protecting their loved ones and being able to stand up in front of friends and family and in the eyes of the law and say, this is my significant other, this is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with and be committed with and have that relationship of care for better and for worse.” She stressed that, “it’s not about changing anything to do with what those fundamental pillars of what marriage is about. The only difference is that instead of the bride and groom it would be two brides or two grooms.”

For more information about Marriage Equality and their TD campaign check out their website

– James Grannell