An open letter to Mandate for Marriage.

To whom it may concern,

I wish to respond to some points made by a representative of yours, in an interview on Ocean FM, regarding same-sex marriage and the upcoming referendum on the same. In this interview, your representative said that “[heterosexual marriage] is the only definition of marriage that has proven itself over centuries [and] has established itself as the bedrock of civilisation”. This is incorrect for a number of reasons.

Firstly, no one definition of marriage has lasted for centuries. The definition of marriage was redefined, for example, in the 90s when we outlawed marital rape in Ireland, and redefined again when we recognised the privacy to use condoms, in 1991. Prior to this in the 1970s we redefined marriage when we allowed women to keep their jobs in the civil service following marriage, and allowed Catholics and Protestants to enter into marriages with each other. Prior to even this, the repeal of Penal Laws allowed Catholics to marry freely. So you can see why your representative’s comments caused some confusion.

Your representative then claimed that your organisation simply seeks to inform the public with facts and statistics. I love statistics! Here are some of my favourite ones; 94% of people who identify as LGBT* are bullied. They are five times more likely to be medicated for depression and related illnesses, two and a half times more likely to self harm and three times more likely to attempt suicide. [i]Those statistics don’t sit very well with me, as I believe there is value in every human life. Which is something Jesus Christ believed in too.

Your representative then went on to discuss sexual behaviour. He said, “… don’t agree that sexual conduct between two men or two women should be given the same legal status as sexual conduct between a man and a woman”. Nowhere in the current definition of marriage does the Irish constitution mention sexual conduct of any kind. To add information about sexual conduct would actually be a re-definition of marriage, which your representative, I understand, disapproves of.

On the topic of homosexuality, your representative said that the problem is with “the sexual act”. I would like to thank your representative for his honesty on the issue of his “distaste” with the sexual acts of homosexuals. Such honesty is something I have not encountered in the ‘No’ campaign so far, though it is far from commendable. I would like to ask a question of the representative if I could; Why is it that you care about the sexual acts others engage in? I am heterosexual and I certainly don’t spend any of my time wondering about the sexual acts of others. Partly because it’s none of my business, and partly because I am simply indifferent to it. Further to this, I believe that your representative would be best placed to make calls for the re-criminilastion of homosexuality rather than fighting against marriage. If, for some unfortunate reason this referendum does not pass, LGBT* people in Ireland will still be having sex.

Your representative then made a disgraceful comment about the prevalence of AIDS amongst gay males in particular. This is a moot point. Firstly, one cannot “catch” AIDS from a partner, sexual or otherwise,. One can however become HIV+ on contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is also HIV+. HIV is a virus that is also contracted by many heterosexual people, many of whom share your representative’s Christian beliefs, or who belong to different faiths and races entirely. Diseases do not discriminate. And neither should you.

Your representative said that we are all given “heterosexual bodies, we all have the same reproductive organs.” I would like to point out here that 1% of the world’s population are in fact born with some sort of biological intersex condition. As I understand it, your representative is a student of mathematics, so will be better placed than I to inform you that 1% of seven billion is seventy million. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but that is quite a large number of people. What exactly would you say to those people? Or more importantly, why is it that you are so obsessed with what sexual acts they may or may not engage in, and with whom they engage in them?

Jane Austen never wrote a scene about two men alone. Her reasoning was that as a woman, she didn’t know how two men would speak to one another when alone. Your representative asked a question about the sexual behaviour of two men during your interview which seemed to go unanswered. I have male, homosexual friends and I could describe to you some of the sex acts they have engaged in and recounted to me, but the thing is I can’t verify them, and I don’t wish to. Their sex lives are none of my business unless they make it my business. I am not in the room with them. As my friends, all I want for them is to be safe and happy, and that goes for all situations they find themselves in; whether it’s crossing the road or having sex with another man. It is quite simply none of your business what anyone, other than you and a consenting partner or partners, get up to in terms of sexual behaviour, and it is certainly no business of the state unless someone is coming to harm or danger.

Your representative claimed that people should not use their body in “a way it’s not meant” to be used. Does this include tattoos and piercings? Hair dye? The use of glasses or contact lenses? Should people be prevented from using their bodies as art? Should we prohibit swimming since humans are clearly not designed to live in water? Should we put an end to space travel? Cars? Antibiotics? Vaccines? Gymnastics?

Your representative drew the interview to a close by saying he would have no problem getting a cup of coffee with someone who identifies as gay. I don’t identify as gay myself but I would love to catch up with him or one of your other representatives for a cup of coffee, provided you won’t be sitting wondering what sexual behaviours I may or may not have engaged in in my life, and that you won’t assume that I live my life by a scripture that, while of relevance to you and your lives, is of no relevance to me or mine.

Yours most sincerely,

Joanne Duffy

Your biggest fan

PS. Vote Yes.

[i] http://www.belongto.org/attachments/233_BeLonG_To_Submission_to_National_Strategy_for_Action_on_Suicide_Prevention.pdf