Dublin Pride draws to a close today. Although the Pride march took place yesterday the festival itself is much broader than that, and it is in a way a week in which a particular focus is placed on LGBT rights issues that organisations and support agencies—not to mention individuals—are working on throughout the year. There were some things that were disappointing about yesterday’s event from my perspective, namely the absence of any party leaders from the parade (unless I missed someone being there, in which case please forgive me) and the sight of LGBT Gardaí marching in their civilian clothes while their colleagues from other jurisdictions were permitted to march in their full uniforms. That notwithstanding, it was a well organised and fun event and one that was perhaps even more politically charged in its speeches and content than is sometimes the case. Today, however, the Pride week is closing with a major development: the announcement by Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore that he supports marriage equality. Earlier today, the Tánaiste said:
I believe that in certain key areas, our laws are out of step with public opinion. I don’t believe for example, that it should ever be the role of the State to pass judgement on whom a person falls in love with, or whom they want to spend their life with.
That is why the issue of same-sex marriage is to be included for consideration by the Constitutional Convention. I believe in gay marriage. The right of gay couples to marry is, quite simply, the civil rights issue of this generation, and, in my opinion, its time has come.
It is impossible to avoid observing that is something of a leap to describe marriage equality as “the civil rights issue of this generation” at a time when asylum seekers are forced to ‘live’ in direct provision centres where their personal safety is endangered and personal dignity undermined, women are trafficked into sexual slavery and bondage across the country, children are dying in state care, the Irish government is complicit in torture, and poverty is a growing and endemic problem. Notwithstanding that, this is a major development from the Tánaiste. Now, as the Constitutional Convention is once more named as the location for what will surely be a difficult national conversation, we are reminded once more of the need to ensure that participation in the Convention is broad, transparent, truly participatory and clearly organised.
Here on HRinI we continue to run our Shadow Constitutional Convention every Thursday, and increasingly campaigns are being organised to try to ensure broad participation from civil society. Whether any of this will have an impact on the design of the Convention is difficult to predict, but the more work we ask the Convention to do for us as a society the more we ought to focus on its makeup and planned outputs and, of course, what it is intended will be done with those outputs. Sound-bites are not meaningless, and the Tánaiste’s words will be appreciated by many today (although it would have been nice to see him at Pride yesterday), but the time really has come to start outlining how and when words are going to be translated into action.
Photo credited to www.marriagequality.ie