With the marriage referendum fast approaching, it’s a topic that’s never far from conversation here in college. It’s plastered all over Facebook, with young people coming out in force to show their support for gay rights. Almost everyone that I’ve talked to has said “The marriage referendum will definitely pass, everyone I’ve asked is voting yes,” but me? I’m not so convinced that it will. “Everyone” that we ask is voting yes, but who is “everyone” exactly?
You’ve all seen the “NO” posters littered around the streets, and are familiar with the arguments used by the “NO” side to sway the public their way. But through the wonderful world of social media, these arguments have proven to be invalid and incorrect, and every young person that uses Twitter or Facebook is aware of that. But what about the people who haven’t been informed of this? What about the people who don’t use social media, like some of our mothers, fathers, and grandparents? How are they supposed to know that what they’re being fed by the “NO” side is a pack of outrageous lies? All they’re seeing are posters telling them to think of the children, and many of them are going to believe it because they don’t have access to the correct information. I think we can all agree that the “YES” posters aren’t exactly what we would have hoped for. So that leaves it up to us to talk to them about the marriage referendum, and inform them of the truths.
If you are unsure as to whether your family members are voting yes or no, you should talk to them about what the marriage referendum really means. Start the conversation with something simple and open, so that they don’t think you’re just forcing your opinion down their throat. Yesterday, I brought up the topic to my Mum by calling her and asking her if my polling card had come in the post yet. She said that it had, so I got straight to it and asked if she’d made up her mind about which way she was voting yet. As a woman who really cares about her own children, I know that the “NO” posters had probably grabbed her attention on more than one occasion, but she said that she wasn’t sure if she’d vote, so I knew I still had a chance to sway her towards the “YES” side. After our phone call and some searching on the internet, I sent her this picture on Viber, followed by a text to let her know that it was just a fact sheet to help her decide which way to vote. It was simple, non-invasive and hopefully effective, and I’d advise everybody to do the same with their relatives who have had minimal exposure to the “YES” side.
We can’t blame people for saying they’ll vote “NO” when they haven’t been informed of the true facts about the referendum. I told my Dad that gay people can already adopt children in Ireland, which I’m pretty sure he didn’t know beforehand. I also made the point to my parents that one day I’ll have children of my own. Sure, the marriage referendum doesn’t affect them right now but what about if I have a child who turns out to be gay? Wouldn’t they want them to be happy too? They agreed, and it’s straight forward facts like this that can easily sway people towards the “YES” side.
It seems that “everyone” is voting “YES” because the “NO” voters are staying quiet. They know in their hearts that their opinion is that of a homophobic one, and that other people will get angry with them because of it (and rightly so). But these people aren’t going to stay quiet on May 22nd, as opposed to some of the “YES” voters. A huge percentage of 18-22 year olds failed to register, and others can’t due to college exams, work, or being away from home on the day. Something as simple as not being able to get a lift to the polling station could stop somebody from voting “YES”, no matter how much they want to. I think it’s important that we realise that a referendum can be lost by just ONE vote, which shows the importance of using yours.
We have one more week until the referendum takes place, and it’s important that we spend our time wisely. Don’t just presume that “everyone” is voting “YES”. It may seem that way in college, where people are more open minded because of what they’ve seen on the internet. But there are still people who are being misinformed by the “NO” side and being led astray. It’s our job to teach these people the truth, and ensure that the referendum passes on the 22nd. You have a voice, use it.
For further information on the marriage referendum, visit this website: http://refcom2015.ie/marriage/