How I explained the Marriage Equality Referendum to my kids
“Mum, how do people decide whose name to use when they get married?” my five-year-old asked last week.
I explained that most couples use the man’s name.
“And what about if two girls get married to each other – how do they decide whose name to take?” was the next question.
I replied that they probably have a chat and just decide which name works best, or maybe have two surnames but as I spoke, all I could think was how fabulous it was that she sees it as totally normal that two women can get married.
Well, of course, as it stands, they can’t. But I didn’t get into explaining civil partnerships to her. Partly because it’s a little too complicated to explain to a five-year-old, and partly because if there’s a Yes vote in the Marriage Equality referendum on May 22, it’ll be a moot point. She’ll learn about civil partnerships in a future history class.
I hope that she and my other two children will grow up in a country that treats all citizens equally. I hope that they will continue to see same-sex couples as a normal part of everyday life. I hope that if they have friends who are gay, they will never see or treat them differently from anyone else. I hope that if any of my kids is gay, he or she will feel safe telling me and telling others. And I hope they’ll never feel they matter less than anyone else, or shouldn’t have the same right to seek happiness.
If there’s a Yes vote on May 22, I wonder if future generations will look back on this time in history in the same way as we look at the suffragette movement – the idea that women didn’t have the right to vote is hard to fathom in 21st century Ireland. But we also know that back then, that notion simply fit with the norms and beliefs and values of the time. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but when information is clearly presented and minds are opened, anything can happen.
A Yes vote doesn’t change the definition of marriage – the Referendum Commission have been very clear about that. A Yes vote simply extends the right to marriage to more people. It has nothing to do with children or surrogacy – we know that there are already children growing up in every type of family – with single parents, with same-sex parents, with widowed parents, with co-habiting heterosexual parents, with married parents.
A Yes vote doesn’t change any of that, but it does give rights to those children that don’t exist today. And it sends a very clear message that regardless of whether those children grow-up gay or straight, they are equal.
In other words, bringing about the equality that my five-year-old already assumes exists.
Andrea Mara is a shoe-obsessed, coffee-loving mother of three from Dublin. When she’s not working in financial services, or looking after the kids, Elissa, 7, Nia, 5 and Matthew, 3, she’s simultaneously making tomorrow’s school lunches, eating Toblerone and letting off steam on her blog.