Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Apartheid, class, civil partnerships and marriage

October 20th, 2008 · 12 Comments · Feminism, Marriage Equality, Same Sex Partnerships

It’s not the first time I have heard this. And it’s probably futile to think that this might be the last time. However it is a discussion worth having.

THE GOVERNMENT’S Civil Partnership Bill was compared to past segregationist policies in South Africa at the annual Turas na mBan gathering held in Westport, Co Mayo at the weekend.

Addressing the conference on the subject of Love and Social Change, Dr Anne Louise Gilligan said institutions creating separation and segregation never worked.

I disagree that the introduction of civil partnerships as opposed to marriage in Ireland could bring about the situation that was segregation in South Africa. Whilst Desmond Tutu has said that “homophobia is as unjust as apartheid” he did not say that they were the same and neither did he say that civil partnerships (as opposed to marriage) were as unjust as apartheid. I understand that Archbishop Tutu has written the foreword to the recently published book written by Dr. Gilligan and her spouse Dr. Katherine Zappone. Maybe Tutu has expanded this train of thought further and I look forward to reading it upon my return.

Critiques of the Civil Partnership Heads of Bill are needed – there is no mention of tax or social welfare in the proposed legislation. Others have pointed to the lack of acknowledgement of parental rights or the rights of children in the plans of the government.

However taking the now well worn path to simply point to the fact that it’s not marriage won’t help lesbians and gay men and our relationships receive recognition or indeed respect the fact that many do not want marriage.  I wonder when someone else is going to recognise the class divide in the campaign for marriage equality. What? Classism in lesbian and gay politics in Ireland? Oops there I go I mentioned it.

Dr. Gilligan is also quoted in the article calling for a respect for difference which I could not agree more with.

“One of our greatest challenges – a core challenge – in Ireland today is to accept and respect diversity. In order to have real equality, not only do we have to accept our sameness, equally importantly we must accept our differences,” she said.

One hopes that this respect would extend to me for expressing my discomfort with this departure in the the fight for equality for lesbians and gay men.

I would be interested in debating the ease with which white lesbians and gay men attempt to adopt the politics of race in their campaigns for equality. Any takers?



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