We meet people voting Yes, and those voting No, and hear their reasons for their choice, in the upcoming Marriage Equality referendum.
'CHILDREN HAVE THE MOST TO LOSE IN THIS'
Kieran O’Mahony spoke to Anne Murray of Mothers and Fathers Matter about why she is voting No
THE more Anne Murray reads about the upcoming referendum on marriage equality the more she is convinced that she will be voting No on May 22nd.
The Co Cork mother of three children has strong family links to West Cork and Bere Island with many of her cousins still living there, and she visits the island regularly on her holidays.
‘This referendum is basically about changing the meaning of marriage as we know it, as society has always understood marriage to be between one woman and one man and the referendum is proposing to change that, which is very radical,’ said Anne, a member of the lobby group Mothers And Fathers Matter.
‘What they’re looking for is legal recognition and I feel we already have that with Civil Partnership, and it’s particularly tailored to same sex couples. When you hear gay men saying that this is a better fit and asking for a No vote, you have to think about it really,’ she says. ‘Equality is about treating situations differently and for me, same sex couples have legal recognition by Civil Partnership. There is virtually no difference between civil partnership and civil marriage – they’re practically identical.’
But Anne says it’s the ‘rights of the child’ that she is most concerned about, because if the proposal is passed, she believes it will automatically give any couple the Constitutional right to start a family, as it will be laid down in the Constitution.
‘The Constitution belongs to the people of Ireland and, as a country, it reflects what we believe and our laws have to reflect what’s in our Constitution. Article 41 is part of the Constitution that links family and marriage and that’s the section that we are being asked to change, and we can’t have this debate without bringing in the needs of children. The UN Convention of the Rights of a Child says that children have a right to know their mother and father, it’s an integral part of their identity. For me, our roots are part of our identity and certainly in West Cork people understand that clearly.’
Anne, who now lives in Youghal, says that if couples have a Constitutional right to start a family, then this obviously involves bringing children into the world, and if they are two men or two women, then they will have to bring in a third party. This means surrogacy – which will have to be legislated for.
‘Either way, that third party will not know the child, and that child will not know part of its identity growing up, and that’s a huge wrong, it’s against the UN Convention of The Child and that’s a huge difficulty. We have all come from a mum and a dad, a child does deserve the right to know their parents.’
What is also noticeable in this debate, according to Anne, is that people are afraid to say that they are voting No and there is huge disquiet among people in Co Cork, she believes.
‘People aren’t stupid and they are extremely annoyed that their political representatives are not representing them. I think there’s only two out of the 166 TDs in the Dail who are planning to vote No, and surely that’s totally disproportionate. In Co Cork alone, there are a lot of people who I know who are going to vote No and there are a lot of silent people, but not one of the TDs in all the constituencies in Cork has come out and said ‘hang on there’s something wrong here, and I need to represent my constituents’.
‘I think we’re doing a dis-service to future generations if we don’t vote No. Do parents want their grand-children to be deprived of a mother and father? Even the gay men I know feel their needs are met with Civil Partnership. We’re going against the rights of children who are the most vulnerable in our society. The equality of children has to be first in this, as they have the most to lose in this debate.
‘People need to take into consideration the long term consequences, because this isn’t going to change things overnight, but it will change things in 20 or 30 years’ time.’
'LIZ WORE A WEDDING DRESS, TESSA A FEMINISED SUIT'
Tessa Perry tells Jackie Keogh why her New York marriage
was an important step forward
‘WE are just as interesting or as boring as any other couple,’ Tessa Perry said during the course of an interview that involved her and her wife, Liz Clark, telling their story – a story that involved, for a time, unrequited love; travelling the world playing music; true love; immigration issues; four marriages; a boy called Luka; and a referendum.
But first a little back story: Liz moved from Colorado to New York at the age of 21 with dreams of becoming a star but instead got involved in hosting a music night called ‘Whiskey Breath’. And, like the start of all good stories, Tessa walked into the bar, saw Liz, and knew it was love at first sight.
But Liz was dating guys and when they, and four rowdy men, went on tour as ‘The Whiskey Breath Travellers’ Tessa – jokingly – did what she could by giving Liz ‘bad advice’ to sabotage her relationships.
On the day that Tessa was returning home to Ireland and to the family business at the Glebe Café and Gardens in Baltimore she had an 8.30am breakfast in New York’s West Village with Liz – an unusual occurrence because Liz, pre-motherhood, would never get up before noon.
‘That morning I realised Tessa was more than just a friend. I just hadn’t caught up with myself that I loved her,’ said Liz, who went on to explain the intricacies of the letters and emails that went back and forth over the next six months of separation before their movie-worthy reunion at Heathrow Airport.
There were, in true movie fashion, obstacles like the immigration officer who quizzed Liz about having no return ticket for the States and no money to speak of. Telling a few fibs also got Liz into hot water, especially with Tessa, acting as honest broker, at the other side of the line of questioning.
Tessa, who would describe herself as ‘reserved, protestant and polite to a fault’, had never put the moves on Liz so when they finally did reunite Tessa acknowledged that ‘Liz was the brave one.’ She said: ‘I just felt so vulnerable because I didn’t want my heart broken. Of course, looking back, it was all terribly obvious.’
After that reunion they said they ‘got kissed and got married a year later.’ As it turns out, it was the first of four marriages. That was on September 8th 2007, a time when there was no civil partnership so a friend of theirs married them at a ceremony in Glebe Gardens, an event that also featured a concert by the Hot House Flowers and a party that was thrown open to the entire village. Liz wore a wedding dress and Tessa a feminised suit.
For a couple of years afterwards, they went back and forth between Baltimore and the States but there were visa issues, it was expensive, and it was unsettling. Despite their marriage before family and friends in Baltimore, and another wedding for their American friends at Prospect Park on October 8th 2007, they were not recognised as a couple and would have to pretend to not know each other on each outbound and inward journeys.
Bit by bit they ended up spending more time in Baltimore and then Liz got a job working at the West Cork Arts Centre playing music with the elderly as part of the Arts for Health Programme.
Things started to settle and when civil partnership became available in 2011 they had wedding number three – this time on June 13th at the Cork Registry office – but this one was different in that Tessa is now Liz’s spouse in the eyes of the law and vice-versa.
When they decided to have Luka – their now two year old son – they spent a fortune on wills and legal documents relating to power of attorney and it was Liz’s dad who suggested that they get married – properly this time because they could for the first time ever marry in New York – so Luka would be legally protected.
Afterwards, the couple, their son Luka, and some of their friends – including Lucia Moffet of Baltimore and New York, who is Tessa’s ‘American mother’ – bought a dollar bottle of champagne and celebrated.
‘I cried,’ said Liz, ‘because I thought, “We are really married this time”.’
On May 22nd, the couple are hoping that the people of Ireland will vote ‘Yes’ to the Marriage Equality Referendum and that their right to be married in the eyes of the law will be passed.
Smiling, sheepishly, and with desperate irony, Tessa said: ‘I just hope we don’t have to get married again.’
New group is late entrant to debate on ‘No’ side
BY KIERAN O’MAHONY
WITH the country set to vote in the Marriage Referendum in over a week, another group launched their No campaign just last week.
StandUp4Marriage (SU4M) has prepared a case for Voting No using constitutional arguments.
It argues that marriage itself cannot be changed.
The group is maintaining that same sex marriage can never be marriage and that civil partnerships provide a reasonable solution that best serves the common good and that the Constitution should be left alone. The theme of their campaign is ‘Why it’s ok to Vote No’ and although independent, SU4M keeps in close touch with the principals in the other main No campaign groups.
The other main No-Campaign groups are First Families First, whose members include John Waters and Kathy Sinnott and they are calling for a No vote in order to protect the rights of existing families.
‘Mothers And Fathers Matter’ have been the most vocal of the No-Campaign groups and they have come in for some criticism for their postering campaign.
The group favour retaining the present definition of marriage because they believe that this is in the best interests of children and they do not favour changing Article 41 of the Constitution which deals with the family.
Some readers of The Southern Star have in recent weeks also been vocal in their plans to vote No in The Marriage Referendum. One letter from a reader, who wished to remain anonymuos, said ‘the term marriage is for man and woman to live in hopeful happiness and love for the procreation of their children.’
He also went on to say that ‘there is no way that the unions of gay and lesbians should be called a marriage’ and he hopes that ‘the Irish people will realise the government have made a major mistake again and vote No’.
John Streeton from Lisalohorig, Skibbereen made the point last week in a letter to The Southern Star that ‘marriage is to do with procreation, and if the referendum is passed, same sex couples will have the same rights as opposite sex couples.’
He went on to add that while ‘procreation to most opposite sex couples is a fairly easy affair ... to same sex couples procreation is fraught with difficulties.’ John concluded that ‘in the seventy odd years I have lived on this planet, I have rarely heard of anything as completely ridiculous or as utterly absurd as a woman getting married to a woman and a man getting married to a man.’
Meanwhile, UTV Ireland’s Ireland Live at 10 will cover the upcoming Marriage Referendum with a series of debates across the country in the coming weeks, including one in Cork. News anchor Alison Comyn will host the first debate addressing the Marriage Referendum on Monday 11th May – directly after the premier of Pat Kenny in the Round – live from UTV Ireland’s Cork studios.
Ballydehob ‘the perfect place’ to make a Yes video
BALLYDEHOB’S locals have come together in a show of strength with a ‘yes’ video, in favour of the referendum.
The man behind the colourful video, Colm Rooney, said it came about when his co-worker, Toma McCullim, in the design company Cruthu Creative, suggested a short film.
‘I said that I would be up for it only if she did it with me,’ said Colm. ‘She said yes and that’s how it started. I believe in equality, and Ballydehob is populated by lots of lovely, open and interesting people from all walks of life. We both live here and thought it was the perfect place to make a yes video.’
With a background in media technology, Colm did the filming and editing while Toma looked after the organisational end of things. ‘Twenty five years ago when I was looking for a safe and welcoming place to bring up my three children a friend said to me “Ballydehob is the place you are looking for”,’ recalled Toma. ‘Ballydehob is a very special place to live. It is a warm inclusive community who have embraced in-comers from all over the world. It is a village that has drawn artists and creative thinkers and since the 1960s has had some colourful characters who were lesbian and gay. My partner, the writer Carmel Winters, and I, love our community.’
‘It was all very quickly done and we had a great laugh filming it,’ added Colm. ‘My partner Muireann Brady runs Cruthu Creative and she uploaded it to the Cruthu Creative Vimeo account and shared it on the Cruthu Creative Facebook page,’ he explained. In just a few hours it had over 1200 views and within a few days it was up to 5,000.
Colm’s firm, Cruthú Creative, are a freelance design and content creation company based in Ballydehob. They make websites and videos as well as providing graphic design and photography services. ‘This vote gives all of us a chance to make a difference,’ said Toma. ‘We can leave behind the old days of fear and bigotry and welcome an inclusive Ireland that celebrates difference. Many people have told me that this video shows what a big warm heart there is in Ballydehob.
That is true. Whether you are a yes voter or a no voter, you will be welcome here. And hopefully we will all be celebrating after the vote.’
Watch the video at: https://vimeo.com/126043634