This referendum is about more than same-sex marriage for those of us who are calling for a Yes…

 We are pleased to welcome this cross-post from the Anti-Racism Network.

 Articles such as the one published this week in the Irish Times ignore our existence, but we are here, and for every one of us calling publically for a Yes vote, there are many, many more. This week we have seen articles in the Observer, in The Irish Times and in a new enterprise calling itself  theliberal.ie that speculate on how those in the migrant communities in Ireland who have citizenship will vote in the marriage referendum on Friday. The Irish Times, reprinting an article first published in the Observer last Sunday, pulls spurious figures out of the air: “tens of thousands of Christian immigrants who have become Irish citizens” and even “up to 200,000 immigrants” may “help swing the vote in favour of No on May 22”. (““New Irish” Christians gather to vote No in referendum”, Monday 18th May). These articles paint a picture of African people in Ireland especially as one unvaried, homogenous group.

It is common, as Irish people know, for migrants to be seen as stereotypes rather than as we really are, in all our diversity. The media tries, in articles like this, to pigeon hole us, the “New Irish”, in a particular way that does not truly reflect who we are. We in the migrant communities in Ireland are diverse and our paths to this country and our experiences before and during our journey here were also many, and have shaped how we live our lives now, in the present. Some of us are Christian, some Muslim; some of us are of no religion, some atheists. Some of us are straight, some LGBT. Some of us have come here to escape persecution and threats to our lives and the lives of our families because of our political views, our ethnicity, our gender; to flee the slow death of poverty, to escape war, to make a better life for ourselves and our families, and some of us to escape persecution because we are LGBT.
That is why this referendum is about more than same-sex marriage for those of us who are calling for a Yes vote in the migrant communities. Voting Yes on Friday is about opening up to the other who may be different to you or me. It is about overcoming suspicion of anyone who doesn’t behave or look like ‘us’. Racial and ethnic minorities in this country know what it feels like to be discriminated against and held suspect because of our skin colour, our accent, our way of life, our religion. Voting Yes will help this country that is now our home to move away from the intolerant Ireland that was not a place for non-white people, and closer to a future where we can all be accepted as we are.
To show that many of us in the migrant communities, LGBT and straight, support Yes for Equality, a number of us came together to make a video with Anti-Racism Network Ireland (ARN) calling for a Yes vote on Friday. Articles such as the one published this week in the Irish Times ignore our existence, but we are here, and for every one of us calling publically for a Yes vote, there are many, many more.
In common with all citizens in Ireland, for those of us who can vote the referendum this is our chance to define the country we want to live in. Let’s go and vote, but let’s vote for the future, not for the past
This referendum is about more than same-sex marriage for those of us who are calling for a Yes…

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