Voting no because “the Bible says”…

Marriage-Equality

It’s fair to say many people who are pledging to vote no in the upcoming marriage referendum are doing so based on religious grounds. “The Bible says” is being used as a great defence mechanism when questioned as to what religion has to do with marriage equality.

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What people don’t want to admit is that (no offence, God) a lot of what is said in the Bible is shite-talk. Who in today’s society will agree that “For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does…” (1 Corinthians 7:4)? I’m pretty sure Emma Watson would have something to say about that.

Another one that most of us are guilty of suggests we should all be put to death:

“For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him” (Leviticus 20:9). What a shame.

For all you females that have engaged in sexual relations out of wedlock, if you are willing to vote no, you must also accept the following:

“But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die” (Deuteronomy 22: 20-21). There’ll be a lot of deaths in Kilmurry so…

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Quoted no-one ever.

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I seriously cannot fathom how people can use religion as their argument in this campaign when in reality, they pick and choose what parts of the Bible they adhere to.

The way Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, is headed in terms of believers would suggest that the more people practising their faith, the better. So, why on earth would any Catholic want to stand in the way of another Catholic professing their religious beliefs through marriage? Does it not say enough that the LGBT community are going to this length of trouble just to have their relationship blessed by the Church?

Voting no on May 22nd is in breach of so many Bible teachings. Think of the well-known teaching “love your neighbor as yourself”. If you vote no, you’re not loving your neighbour as yourself. You’re putting your own preconceptions before the rights of others; something I don’t think God himself would be too happy about.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Would you like to be denied the right to marry? Would you like your brother, sister, cousin, uncle, neighbour or friend to be denied the right to marry? If you had the genetic disposition of being gay would you still want to be able to live your life to the fullest?

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If we’re going to reference the Bible, which seems to be the growing trend for no-voters in this campaign, let’s face the facts – none of us are really getting through the Pearly Gates. Why, you ask?

“Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

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All you young’uns out there getting raunchy, you are sexually immoral and have not made it into Heaven. All you teenage girls that idolise Luke Hemmings or Kylie Jenner, shame on you. You have not made the cut either. Men who have cheated on their wives or women who have cheated on their husbands; just get out now. Bet you regret eating that last square of Galaxy now, Áine; you ain’t getting in the gates, you greedy bitch. And to any student that has ever been out on a Tuesday or Thursday night on the beer: you are the weakest link, goodbye.

Think I’m exaggerating? Maybe then you should rethink why it is you’re voting no and denying someone else a basic human right.

If you really think it’s true that homosexuals and every other walk of life mentioned above won’t be embraced by God after death, you’re lying to yourself. And don’tcha know liars don’t make the cut either, hun.

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What the marriage referendum means to me

It’s hard to know where to start with a post like this. Having just told my story in the previous blog post, I feel as though I’ve already given a good insight into this part of my life. At the same time, the previous post had very little to do with the referendum itself.

As the day draws nearer and nearer, I can’t help but feel disappointed that soon all the campaigning and support will come to an end. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to hopefully celebrating a step in the right direction, along with everyone else supporting a Yes vote.

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My problem is that I don’t want the support to fade away as soon as the referendum is over. Seeing people sharing videos and pictures on Facebook in support of marriage equality has meant so much to me. From my close friends, fellow course mates, people from home; it truly has been an incredible experience to be a part of.

Every “like”, share or comment on my own statuses or on the statuses of others; every retweet; every single message of encouragement; it has all been phenomenal. I am extremely grateful on  personal level but also on political level. There really is no reason this referendum shouldn’t pass and I’m delighted so many of you agree with me.

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Apart from the obvious reason being that this referendum could potentially impact my life at some stage, I have many other reasons for wanting it to pass:

  • Marriage is something that every child dreams of before they even know what the word “sexuality” means. Just because where initially they imagined themselves with someone of the opposite sex has now changed to imagining marrying someone of the same sex, that does not make them any less entitled or eligible for marriage.
  • The only reason “traditional” marriage is seen to be that of a man and a woman is because that is what has been instilled in the minds of the youth. From nursery rhymes to fairytale stories, every happy ending involves a man and a woman falling in love and living happily ever after. If we simply rewrote these stories to involve same-sex partners, children would grow up thinking nothing different of LGBT couples.
  • Thousands of people over the years who grew up in Ireland have had to move abroad to live fulfilled lives. They were unable to stay in Ireland and be themselves because Irish society frowned upon what made them different. If we treated every other minority group the way we have treated the LGBT community over the years, Ireland’s population would be heading towards extinction. The fact that Ireland is so open to embracing other cultures and ethnicities is what makes it so special. Why limit that openness?
  • I’m sick to death of the word “tolerance”. I don’t want people to tolerate two men holding hands. I don’t want housemates to tolerate living with a gay student. I don’t want anyone to “tolerate the fact that I have a girlfriend. Marriage equality is a massive step towards acceptance and it cannot be underestimated. I want to be accepted as just another person in just another relationship. Not “that girl that has a girlfriend”. That gets old.

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I want to know that in ten years time if I decide I want to marry the person I love, I can do so in the country I was born in. I want to know that the people I invite won’t have to worry about the cost of flying to a different country because I couldn’t get married in Ireland.

I hope that in ten years time if I do decide to get married, “gay marriage” and “same-sex marriage” are terms that won’t exist anymore. That my marriage won’t be considered a gay marriage or a straight marriage. It will just be my wedding day. Simple as that.

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This is my story

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I began to realise I was bisexual when I started secondary school. Noticing things about girls that I would usually only have noticed about guys. The colour of their eyes, for example or the way they walked. Small, irrelevant things that I was picking up on all of a sudden made me very, very confused. I was only thirteen, for God’s sake.

Acknowledging that I might be different and actually accepting that difference happened at two separate times. I thought about it and dwelled on it for a grand total of eight months, during which time I had never felt more alone. I had no-one I could confide in; no-one that would understand. At least that’s what I thought. How could you blame me for thinking that? In an all-girls school where “gay” and “faggot” were thrown around as insults on a daily basis, and standing out from the crowd in any way was already frowned upon.

No way. This was one secret I was keeping to myself. That was until third year.

Ah, third year. What a not-so-fond memory. My decision to “come out” was not one that was made because of how comfortable my peers had made me feel or because they were such decent human beings. No, I decided to come out because at that point I really couldn’t care any less about what they all thought of me. And so it began…

I remember telling the first few people and none of them actually caring that much. A few were shocked; a few saw it coming. Telling select people at my own pace was the best part of it all. Unfortunately, that didn’t last as long as I had hoped it would.

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Word got around, as it always does, and girls began twitching. I could tell just by looking at a person whether they had heard the big news or not. I was able to shrug off the stares and the whispers because at that point my sexuality wasn’t the only thing they could’ve been gossiping about.

The excitement died down pretty soon after my big reveal. There was obviously some more important news to gossip about so things carried on as normal. Until P.E. class, of course. That’s when the reality finally sank in. Everyone might’ve been okay with me being bisexual in theory but when P.E. class rolled around, shit got real.

I’d love to know how many of those girls in my class, not just in third year but in every year after that as well, would have gotten changed in the shower cubicles or in the other changing room if I was in the room with them. Praise the good Lord I was just as self-conscious about getting changed in front of other people as they were so I had always gotten changed in the shower cubicles anyway. Phew, dodged a bullet there didn’t you, girls!

That’s the thing with being openly not-straight. Just because I could potentially be attracted to a girl I am now a threat to ALL GIRLS. I don’t think that stigma will ever fully go away. Not only am I constantly trying to make other girls feel as comfortable and unthreatened as possible (even if there is no fear of me being attracted to them at all), I am also trying to be friendly and approachable without them thinking I’m coming onto them.

Finding that balance is bloody hard. When people find out you’re LGBT they oftentimes become very big-headed all of a sudden. It’s as if they’ve become some sexual Goddess overnight that must be had by any individual who is attracted to females.

Trust me hun, I want to get as intimate with you as I do with a fucking rock.

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Many people thought I was lying. Many people thought I came out for attention. Until we got to the changing rooms, of course. Then I was definitely bi.

Many people thought I said it because it sounded cool. How can being part of a minority group that is continuously victimised be in any way “cool”? Nonetheless, these were some of the accusations I encountered.

It was only when I actually got with a girl for the first time (I was fifteen, btw) that people realised it wasn’t a joke. Since then I’ve been with one other guy and one other girl; the girl being my current girlfriend of almost three years. Yep, six years on and still bisexual.

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Having gone through the whole “coming out” process once already, I decided not to announce my sexuality to anyone when I started college. They would find out eventually, more than likely through Facebook. And what was I supposed to say? “Hi, my name is Olivia and I’m bisexual. You are?”

The only way anyone in college found out was through meeting my girlfriend or asking if I was in a relationship. Then again, I’m sure there were people who knew people who knew I was bi and chose to announce that for me. I don’t care though, that’s one less job for me.

The only really negative experiences I’ve had since coming out in secondary school involved lads. They say girl-on-girl action is sexy but when they actually see two girls holding hands on the street, all of a sudden it’s disgusting.

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I’ve had slur yelled at me in the streets, I’ve had a bottle thrown at me; I’ve even been spat at for holding my girlfriend’s hand. That doesn’t affect me because I’m strong enough and confident enough in myself to not let it. However, not everyone can laugh it off the way I do. In fact, that sort of abuse is what has led to the suicide of many LGBT teenagers. That’s not right.

I’m sure many people don’t understand my sexuality and I’m sure many others don’t accept it. I’m not asking you to understand but I am asking you to accept.

I don’t believe anyone should have the power to influence a chapter of someone else’s life story. If you agree, vote yes on May 22nd.

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The No Campaign

I don’t think it would be fair of me to write all of these blog posts encouraging you to vote yes in the referendum if I haven’t even acknowledged the opposition’s argument.

In saying that, I’m pretty sure most people know what the No campaign are basing their arguments on: they believe that all children have the right to both a father and a mother, and that allowing same-sex marriage defies these rights.

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Take Mothers and Fathers Matter for example. They launched their campaign for a No vote a mere two days ago, but the amount of rejection of their beliefs that I have witnessed so far on social media sites has been incredible. It is clear they are canvassing for better rights for children but what they fail to realise (or are intentionally failing to realise) is that the marriage referendum has nothing to do with protecting the rights of a child.

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As most of us already know, it is the Children and Family Relationships Bill that will deal with children’s rights – not the marriage equality referendum. The fact that these two completely separate issues are being entwined by the No side is both deceiving and appalling.

Although I’d love to think the people of Ireland will be able to look past these twisted campaigns and false information, involving children in such an already-heated campaign could potentially sway voters.

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When it comes down to it, people who are on the fence about what way they should vote will ultimately be swayed by whichever side appeals emotionally to them. I’m not saying “love is love” and #makegráthelaw aren’t effective ways of campaigning for a Yes vote. However, ordinary people are probably going to relate to stories of children without parents a lot more than hashtags about two men who love each other very much.

We can’t be blind to the No campaign’s strategy; they have their story and they’re sticking to it. No matter how hard we try to convince people that what the No side are saying is total bs, it’s not going away. The Yes side is running out of time and it really needs to make these last few weeks count.

What we need are real-life stories. We need people to speak now about their experiences and how those experiences have impacted their lives. The No campaign talks about a child’s right to both a father and a mother, but what about the children sitting in orphanages that would do anything for either one of them?

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What about all of the children who have been raised by a single parent and feel loved just as much as children with two parents? What about the children who have lost a parent at a young age but have still grown up to be incredible people? What about the children who are currently being raised by same-sex partners and want nothing more than to see their family recognised officially by the state? I’m pretty sure they would all agree that having two parents of the same sex is better than having no parents at all.

You don’t have to be LGBT to want this referendum to pass. You don’t have to be LGBT to put a “Yes Equality” sign on your profile picture. You don’t have to be LGBT to voice your stories on what this referendum means to you. You don’t have to be LGBT to show your support on social media by sharing links. You don’t have to be LGBT to realise how important this referendum is. And you certainly don’t have to be LGBT to acknowledge that two people that are in love deserve the chance to wear their wedding dress, cut their wedding cake, share their first dance in front of the people who love them, and have their love recognised by the state.

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But it’s not just about the couple that want to get married. Think of the mother that has been dreaming about shopping for a wedding dress with her daughter since the day she was born. Think of the father shedding a tear as he walks his daughter down the aisle and gives her away. Think of the brother that is delighted to be a best man for the first time. Think about the life-long friends that want nothing more than for the grooms to be happy.

When you cast your vote in this referendum, you’re not just affecting the LGBT community. You’re affecting all of the families, all of the friends, every single person that knows someone who is LGBT. It’s been said time and time again but we all know someone that is going to be affected either directly or indirectly by this referendum. If nothing else, use your vote for them. They may never know which way you voted but that’s not important.

You will.

Playing the campaign game: What have our colleges been doing so far?

We’re only six weeks away from the marriage referendum that will decide whether homosexual couples will be afforded the same rights as heterosexual couples when they say their vows. It’s no surprise that this referendum, more than any other will depend on young people turning out to use their vote. That is of course, assuming most young people will vote yes.

One of the most effective ways of grabbing young students’ attention is through their college. Let’s face it, the majority of students don’t spend their Tuesday nights scrolling through articles on independent.ie in search of information on the referendum. Nah, us students get most of our updates through social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Most of us also happen to follow our college SU page. Made the connection yet?

If not, never fear; that was just a backwards way of saying that Students’ Union campaigns are probably the best method of getting students in the know before May 22nd. Which is why I am dedicating a whole blog post to the work colleges have been doing so far in the lead up to D-Day. Have a look at some of these videos to start with:

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Many other college SUs are providing information on how to register to vote and why it is so important to use your vote.

For example, the University of Limerick has set up a UL Marriage Equality Facebook page. This page posts regular updates and statuses relating to the referendum campaign in the university.

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Another excellent aspect to UL’s campaign is that students can now register to vote ON CAMPUS. Every week there will be Gardaí in the ULSU, available to stamp the registration forms and send them off for you.

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However, UL is not to only college to show their support through Facebook pages:

IT Tallaght SU

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University College Cork SU

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NUI Galway SU

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Maynooth University SU

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Many other colleges across the country have postponed end of year exams to allow students to travel home and vote on May 22nd. This move, I believe, will go a long way in terms of voter turnout for the referendum.

So if you’re a college student and you still don’t know an awful lot about the referendum, get down to your Students’ Union and they’ll surely fill you in.

Time is ticking!

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Registering for the Referendum – How do you do it?

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As well all know, the big day is drawing close and campaigning is obviously intensifying. However, what good is campaigning and promising to vote yes if you’re actually not able to vote at all?

What many people don’t realise, or forget to realise is that you’re not automatically placed on the register of electors just because you turned eighteen. Occasionally people do appear on the register without having applied, but that is completely down to chance. In order to ensure you can vote at the upcoming referendum, here is a step-by-step guide on how to register to vote.

1. Check if your details are on the register 

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Your first port of call has to be www.checktheregister.ie in the event that you are one of the few lucky ones that has been automatically added to the register. On the homepage you simply select your province and your county council from the drop-down lists, click submit and away you go.

On the next page you will be asked to fill in your details to see if you are registered correctly. Fill those in, click submit and off we go to the next page. If you are then greeted with “Your Details could not be found.”, fear not. This just means your luck has run dry and you’ll have to go about registering the old-fashioned way. Hot dang it, Miley.

2. Print off a form

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On that very page that told you your details could not be found, you will find a blue link to a form. Do not use this form, it is from the 2006/2007 register.

Instead, go back to www.checktheregister.ie and on that page there is a tab that reads “Application forms”. Having clicked on that tab, four different types of forms will appear on screen. The one you want to print of is on the far right, RFA2. Below it reads, “Application for inclusion in the Supplement to the 2015/2016 Register of Electors” – this is the one you want.

*Sidenote: For those of you wondering why I didn’t tell you to download the form entitled “Not Registered”, let me explain. The deadline to submit forms for the Live Register was back in November. However when there are upcoming referendums or elections, people that did not register in November but want to vote are placed on a supplementary register (basically a temporary register). You will then be added to the Live Register for the following year. Comprende?

3. Fill in the form and send it off

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In order to fill in the entire form you will have to (unfortunately) traipse the whole way into your local Garda station to get the form stamped. On the bright side (kind of) many of you will have just turned eighteen and may not have ordered an Age Card yet. Two birds one stone, eh?

Once you have the form filled out and stamped, all that’s left to do is post it to your local county council offices. They will do the rest.

4. Do not panic

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Which is exactly what I did when my details still weren’t appearing online. It was only today when I actually bothered to ring the county council that I found out that if you are on the supplementary register (which I am), your details do not appear on the website. It is only the people who are on the Live Register whose details will come up. Phew.

5. Better to be safe than sorry

Even if you’ve followed each of those steps immaculately, I would still advise ringing your council offices to make sure they got your application. It literally takes two minutes for them to confirm and then the worrying is over.

6. Get the fuck out there and vote

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After all the effort it took to actually read my damn post and to get on the damn register, PLEASE don’t forget to vote. Yes, most of us will be finished college and yes we will be so sick of hearing about this bloody referendum, but please do get down to the polling stations and make a difference. Every single vote counts now more than ever.