by Dualta Roughneen

The recent proposal by Sinn Fein to force same-sex “marriage” in the Northern Irish Assembly has received limited attention in the south of the country as the party looks to having an unprecedented successmedia 1312507 YJ inthe European, and even local elections. In the Republic of Ireland, as the elections approach, and Sinn Fein, as a party in the south of Ireland grows, it isimportant to be aware that this is an agenda that Sinn Fein is pushing both north and south of the border. 

Prior to the vote, Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane stated prior to the vote that ‘Marriage equality gives gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people equal rights under the law in relation to marriage. Other jurisdictions on these islands have and are moving forward to ensure marriage equality for all. The North should not be left behind. Giving all couples equal marriage rights under the law does not threaten anyone’s beliefs, religious or otherwise. Churches are free to define marriage as they wish but the state has a duty to treat all citizens equally.’

Ruane, and her Sinn Fein colleagues both North and South of the border are misleading the public with statements such as these. What ‘marriage equality’ proposes is not equality, but another self-created ‘right’. The right to marriage and found a family is equally available to all- but it is the right to marriage that is linked and eternally co-existent on the right to found a family. This can only be done by a man and a woman, and this right on the island of Ireland is available to all. What Sinn Fein and others are asking for is a new right- a preferential right for marriage to be disconnected from family and associated with sexual attraction. With this comes the expectation and subsequent ‘right’ that will be ‘family equality’ requiring that States consider that all forms of modern families are equivalent with that of the natural family -which seeks to prioritise the rights of a child to be brought up by a mother and a father, and ideally the natural mother and father. The new legislation undermines the rights of the child, and make impossible for the state to create policy that promote this preference.

Sinn Fein is also misleading in stating that the proposed law will not threaten anyone’s beliefs. To dismiss concerns- and legitimate ones at that- that relate to the increasing omnipotence of the State, the imposition of a secular agenda at all levels of society, the invasion of the state into the religious sphere, is to ignore evidence from other countries as well as to ignore the creeping invasiveness of politically correct equality discourse. For the religious, individuals and institutions, the establishment in law of an equality that is directly at odds with what the Catholic Church and others holds to be an objective truth, there cannot be an assumption of peaceful co-existence. Sinn Fein, with the support of self-proclaimed rights groups, using the shadow of their evolving interpretation of human rights laws will ensure that there will not be co-existence but the state and the liberal-secular neo-church will expect and demand submission, where this belief systems becomes intricately intertwined in politics and law.

Sinn Fein has received the support and backing of Amnesty International who claim that those who oppose marriage for same-sex couples are "like latter-day King Canutes, trying in vain to hold back the tide of equality". Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty's programme director in Northern Ireland, said: "States may not discriminate with regards to the right to marry and found a family on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. That obligation is clear in international law. This means that marriage should be available to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, just as it is now in England and Wales and will shortly be in Scotland."

Such assertions are untrue and unfounded in any form of international law. The repetition of these untruths is an attempt to create an impression that the Irish people- and long established traditions and religions- are at odds with modernity, and to bully those in Ireland who hold that the bond of marriage should be reserved for both a man and a woman. There is nothing in international law that states creates a right to marriage equality and citing equality and discrimination is a total, though deliberate, misinterpretation of any human rights laws that exist. If anything, the tradition of human rights principles and fundamentals comes from a Christian understanding of the good, rather than a corrupted co-option of rights by modern-day secular-liberal evangelists.

An open letter to legislators in Northern Ireland from the bishops of Northern Ireland on the day before the motion was to be voted, gives a clear and unequivocal understanding of the traditional and Christian understanding of marriage. Signed by seven bishops, the statement highlights that marriage is not about individual desires, but about children and society. ‘The proposed 'Marriage Equality' motion before the Assembly effectively says to parents, children and society that the State should not, and will not, promote any normative or ideal family environment for raising children. It therefore implies that the biological bond and natural ties between a child and its mother and father have no intrinsic value for the child or for society. As Pope Francis stated recently, 'we must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity.'

The statement further clarifies the misperception of equality being used to further the agenda and references the reality in international law- ‘The ‘Marriage Equality’ motion also misuses the principle of equality. It is a fact of nature that same-sex unions are fundamentally and objectively different from the complementary sexual union of a woman and a man which is of itself naturally open to life. It is not discrimination for the State to treat different types of relationship differently. The European Convention on Human Rights does not recognise same-sex ‘marriage’ as a right and the European Courts have consistently upheld the right and freedom of member States not to redefine marriage in this way. This is not therefore a question of ‘rights’ or ‘equality’ but of recognising the objective difference between these two types of relationship.’

While Sinn Fein may expect their greatest success in the Republic of Ireland in the forthcoming elections, the electorate should be aware that a rising tide lifts all boats. While Sinn Fein may represent the discontent with the current and traditional political establishment, the social policies that are being promoted by the party should not obscure the fact that, like the Labour Party previously, the organisation talks social justice in terms of the economy, but also carries with it traditional socialist and Marxist views that are anathema to the Catholic Church, religion and the family. However, the electorate is also left with limited alternatives. The policy of the Labour Party is well known, the Fine Gael government has demonstrated that it cannot be trusted despite clear and unequivocal promises prior to the election on abortion, with Fianna Fail the country is still in the legacy of its poor economic management of the country. Is there a genuine alternative?