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Opinions contained in The Iona Blog are not necessarily those of The Iona Institute. The Iona Blog is open to anyone who broadly shares the views of The Iona Institute. If you wish to post a comment on a relevant topic please email 200 – 400 words to [email protected] and it will be considered for inclusion in the blog.
As the debate over same-sex marriage continues in the lead-up to Ireland's referendum on the question, the prospect of allowing a "conscience clause" has been thoroughly rejected by the Yes side. The US State of Indiana recently tried to pass a law that might give some prospect of protection to the likes of Asher's - and it's fair to say that supporters of same-sex marriage exploded.
David Quinn appeared on Morning Ireland, debating Colm O'Gorman of Amnesty International about the introduction of a "conscience clause" protecting the freedom of conscience rights of bakers, printers, and other citizens who don't support same-sex marriage, in the event that the referendum was passed. It's an important and relevent debate to have, as the Asher's Bakery case in Northern Ireland is currently ongoing. In that case, a small family-run bakery was asked to bake a cake bearing the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" and then taken to court by Northern Ireland's equality commission when they refused.
Last night Archbishop Diarmuid Martin addressed a meeting of The Iona Institute attended by over 200 people. His topic was 'The Teaching of the Church on Marriage Today'. In the course of the talk he addressed the topic of the nature of marriage.
The two sides in this referendum debate, so far as I can see, don't just disagree. They disagree about what it is they're disagreeing about. Most of those I've seen arguing for a Yes vote sincerely believe that this is, wholly and solely, a debate about who should be able to get married.Unfortunately for the public, the media are (for the most part) accepting the Yes side’s framing of the issue. In a fairer debate, it'd be great to hear the Yes side, and those who fully support the Children and Family Relationships Bill (CFR Bill), being asked questions like this:
Elizabeth Howard, a woman from England who was conceived through sperm donation, was on the Right Hook programme on Newstalk yesterday. Howard, who wrote for the Guardian last year about the experience of being the child of an anonymous “donor”, made it clear to George Hook that she thought all sperm donation was unethical. “I don't think removing anonymity really helps” she said.
In 2010, Argentina legalised same-sex marriage. At the time, Pope Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. He voiced his strong opposition to the proposal. This is quite contrary to the common misconception that he is silent on the issue. Since becoming Pope, Francis has reiterated many of the things he said in Argentina.
Fergus Finlay was writing in The Irish Examiner this week about the Child and Family relationships, and his piece unfortunately follows a familiar template adopted by most of the legislation's defenders. It goes something like this: 1. Talk about the good bits of the bill 2. Avoid any questions that might be awkward. 3. Assure people that everything's A-OK, and that anyone who raises any of the questions you've just dodged is peddling fear.
When two different questions get quite different results on the same issue it is a good sign that voter intentions on that issue are volatile. Thus it was that a poll by Red C and another one by Millward Brown on the issue of same-sex marriage and conducted within a week of each other got significantly different outcomes.
Let’s forget for a moment about the upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage and consider instead the disastrous attitude of our Government and opposition parties towards marriage overall. Taoiseach Enda Kenny summed it up very well last week when he reduced what marriage is all about to two words, “I do”.
Frances Fitzgerald’s speech last night introducing the Children and Family Relationships Bill to the Dail was a masterpiece of evasion, in particular when she commented on the aspects of the Bill dealing with Donor Assisted Human Reproduction (DAHR). Here's what she had to say: “The Bill will not change the rights of most children in terms of parentage. A child who is the natural child of a heterosexual couple will have exactly the same parentage rights as at present. That child will continue to be the child of his or her birth mother and natural father. However, two categories of children will get the chance to GAIN a parent or parents as a result of this Bill. A donor-conceived child will get the right, under this legislation, to gain a second parent. As it stands, if the child is born to a female same-sex couple, that child has only one legally recognised parent if the donor is unknown.”
It’s fair to say that Fintan O’Toole doesn’t like the section on the Irish Constitution that deals with the family, that is to say, Article 41. In his column in Tuesday's Irish Times he associates it with de Valera’s Ireland and finds the article to be more or less incomprehensible.
Stephen Fry’s latest attempt to remind the world just how relevant and intelligent he is has brought Irish media legend Gay Byrne into the debate. In his show “The Meaning of Life,” Gay asked Fry what he would say, should he encounter God at the Gates of Heaven (assuming Saint Peter has given him a pass)? His response: “I’ll say, ‘Bone cancer in children? What's that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that’s not our fault. It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?”
Two French families who had their daughters mixed up in hospital have been awarded over two million euro worth of damages in court. When a child is separated from their natural family by accident, it's a tragedy. But what if the child is separated from one or both of their biological parents on purpose? Isn't that a violation of rights too? That's the question supporters of sperm and egg donation and surrogacy have to answer.
We should be grateful to The Irish Times for setting out in its editorial today such a comprehensively adult-centred view of marriage. The newspaper is entirely happy to completely separate the issue of children from the issue of marriage and never thinks to ask whether this is actually a good thing or not. It's not, of course.
The Government has decided to call the Bill to amend the Constitution and permit same-sex marriage," The Thirty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015". Giving it such a completely loaded name, entirely favourable to the Yes side has been called into question by legal academic, Dr Seán Ó Conaill. Dr Ó Conaill believes calling it this is constitutionally doubtful as it immediately biases voters in favour of it.
There's a persistent idea on the Yes side that notions that the idea of a child having a “right to a mother and father” or “a right to a relationship with their genetic parents” is a nonsense argument because – or so the reasoning goes – the state can't guarantee it. Their mother might tragically die, their father might walk out, and there's not much anyone can do about it. This case is made with particular regularity and force by journalist Vincent Browne. But what would happen if we applied this logic to a few other rights? How about the most basic one – the right to life?
The usual hand-wringing continues. Peter McGuire at the Irish Times is all in a tizzy about gender imbalances at professor-level in our universities. Apparently it’s all discrimination of one kind or another and has nothing to do with the choice many women make in the real world about how to properly balance home and work.
Sean O’Rourke on his show today (23/1) put it to Leo Varadkar that he has previously stated that children have a right to a mother and a father. The Minister said he was quoted out of context. That is not the case.
The announcement by Health Minister, Leo Varadkar, that he is gay resulted in a spate of programmes yesterday that debated same-sex marriage. Iona Institute representatives appeared on The Pat Kenny Show, The Last Word and Claire Byrne Live. David Quinn, Breda O'Brien and Ben Conroy all made appearances.
Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World should be required reading for anyone interested in social policy questions. In Huxley's "happy dystopia", the ties of flesh and blood have absolutely no importance. All children are conceived in test-tubes, and veryone is selected and conditioned as embroyos to fulfill a particular societal function, with those that don't measure up being discarded. When I read stories like the following one about the fertility industry in Hollywood, I often think of Huxley. To cut a long story short, one sperm donor has fathered at least 23 children with 23 mothers and the mothers found many of them live within a stone’s throw of each other.
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