Yes you … stop looking over your shoulder… you who watched Claire Byrne Live and began to panic about the Marriage Referendum and started worrying about what was going on, who was doing what and the sky was going to fall in and and and…
1) Chill the feck out.
2) There are 4 months to go to the day of the vote which is yet to be announced. This is a marathon and not a sprint. There is a piece of legislation to go through the Oireachtas on Children and Families and relationships which will mean that the referendum will be about marriage as it should be.
3) Yes campaigners are not going to win this referendum on their own – there are not enough LGBT’s able to vote. People who believe in equality are, by voting in favour of it, going to win this referendum because you have asked them to do so and because they think it is the right thing to do. These are your grannies, your neighbours, your workmates and generally sound people you don’t know (yet) who believe in fairness and equality.
4) Because this is a marathon and not a sprint there are groups strategising and getting ready for the campaign with different campaign events, plans and posters and the like. Some of them need your money and others want your time. Think about helping them out. They won’t tell you what the plan is 4 months from the vote, but there is a plan. Trust them.
5) This is a democracy. People are going to oppose this referendum. They are in the minority but they have the right to express their opinions and try and get people to vote No or not vote at all. Don’t spend too much time focusing on them, don’t vilify them. Implacable courtesy all the way or ignore them. Mind your mental health, look out for others who might find the negativity and homophobia depressing and difficult to deal with. Mind each other.
6) There are other things you can do to ensure people vote Yes in May.
– Ask people you know to vote and tell them why it’s important to you.
– Make sure you are registered to vote yourself. Check the register – if you are not on the 2015 version you can go on the supplemental register.
– Read information on campaign groups websites (people can leave comments on this post with info on local and regional groups) Join mailing lists – Sign up as a volunteer, go to the training, if you (or you mother, granny or doting great uncle) are prepared to speak to the media tell these groups also.
– There are Facebook groups for constituency campaigns being set up at the moment. Closer to the date find out if there is door to door campaigning in your area from political parties or other campaign groups. Or on street leafleting in the month before the vote etc.
– Bring information into your workplace or college or sports club etc. See if a hustings can be organised where someone might be invited to speak on the issue.
– Call into radio debates and give your opinions (if only to make sure that Brendan Conroy – Breda O’Brien’s husband – is not the only person texting in!) Again be polite and to the point and explain your side of the story.
I write all the above as someone who was involved in the decriminalisation campaign which was not a referendum but was as important and often threatening and could make you ill with the stress and the mudslinging. It was not a sprint but a carefully planned marathon. A marathon where non lgbt people did the running along side lesbians and gay men and helped with the lifting. We have to ask our straight allies to run this marathon with us again.
I also write this as someone who isn’t particularly into marrying (though there are friends and family members looking for their day out) and I don’t see marriage as the most important issue for lgbts and find much of the narrative extremely conservative and restrictive and that’s on the Yes side.
But I will support the choice of people to marry. And I’ll come back to all later for discussions on why it’s ok not to marry, why single lesbian mothers rock and gay men who are serial monogamists or otherwise are to be treasured. And why we still will need to keep Civil Partnership.
So chill the feck out, put on your safety belts and plan for a bumpy but important ride.