By Monica Heck
A guest lecture on the topic of marriage equality was given to DCU social studies students by Grainne Healy, chairwoman of the Marriage Equality organisation, last week.
Alongside her duties as chairwoman of Marriage Equality, Ms Healy is a PhD SALIS scholar at DCU, focusing on the meanings of civil partnership for gay and lesbian people in Ireland.
At the lecture, participants heard about the challenges faced by homosexual couples who wish to get married in Ireland and discussed the recent campaign that the Marriage Equality organisation deployed in Dublin.
Marriage Equality is a not for profit organisation which aims to get access to civil marriage for same-sex couples in Ireland.
“This guest lecture was part of the social studies course in the context of discussions around gender and sexuality,” said DCU lecturer Dr Des McGuinness, who organised the talk.
He said that the talk was well attended and stimulated productive discussions on the topic, “A course on social studies is about opening up the debate.”
Around 25 students participated in the lecture and subsequent question and answer session according to Ms Healy, which allowed her to get feedback on the current Marriage Equality campaign, titled Just Love?.
The campaign was launched last month and highlights the issues faced by same-sex couples. Same-sex couples can benefit from a civil partnership since the advent of the Civil Partnership Act in 2010, but cannot get married in Ireland under current legislation.
Though civil partnership offers legal recognition to same-sex couples and defines rights and obligations in a similar manner to married couples, the Marriage Equality organisation says it’s not the equivalent to marriage.
“We’re creating an institution solely for one group of people due to their sexual orientation,” said Ms Healy. “The status of civil partnership is a lesser status than marriage. So it’s a second-tier institution for Irish lesbians and gays. Not having access to legal recognition of a relationship is discriminatory.”
Marriage Equality is running a TD campaign. An information pack allows people who wish to support this cause to raise the issue in an informed manner with their local TD.
“It’s been a very successful initiative so far, even with conservative TDs,” said Ms Healy. “People who oppose the marriage of same-sex couples try to use the argument that there is no demand for it, so we are challenging that.
“In 1996, 45 per cent of the Irish population was supportive, another poll in 1999 showed a rise to 62 per cent and then in March this year, the Irish Independent and Millward Brown Lansdowne survey showed that 73 per cent support same-sex marriage. That would now be considered a full majority on any issue,” she said.