On November 1st, the Draft Electoral Register for 2015 was published; meaning that now is the perfect time to Check the Register and see if you’re on the list. For students and those who move around a lot, its also important to check the address which your polling card is being sent to and make sure its up to date.
If you find you aren’t on the register or your address is wrong or out of date then download this form, fill it in and return to your local authority before the 25th of November. Be sure to check if everyone else you are living with wants to register/amend as well. Everyone living at the same address can use the same form.
There are several reasons that the push to register is so strong this year. There are at least 3 referenda to be held in early 2015: marriage equality, reducing the voting age to 16 from 18, and reducing the age barrier for presidential candidates to 35. Naturally we’d say vote yes in all of these ballots but for now we’ll focus on the importance of the marriage equality referendum.
As it stands there is a common misconception that same sex marriage is already legal in Ireland. This simply isn’t true. Same sex civil partnership is in place but legally this is vastly different to marriage. Civil partnership doesn’t travel well, meaning it’s hard to know which countries will recognise it and it doesn’t confer the same level of protection for spouses in times of hardship, death or custodial rights of children. You can read more about the differences here.
Marriage equality itself won’t solve all the problems or violence that people in the LGBTQAI spectrum’s face. The latest youth issue of GCN has young LGBTQ people voicing their concerns and highlighting that persecution isn’t dead. Dr. Lydia Foy has been campaigning for years for gender recognition and still she waits. Most LGBTQ people see marriage equality as secondary to issues of workplace harassment, enforcement of anti-discrimination law and the removal of Article 37 in the Employment Equality Act which allows for state-funded religiously-run schools/hospitals to refuse to hire someone who conflicts with their ethos.
So while maybe not the most “important” issue to people, marriage equality is a huge step in the right direction–a step (even with all the incumbent criticisms of it being a hetero-normative move) towards a society where love and public declarations of it, with tax benefits, are not the sole reserve of straight couples. A step we have to take if we ever expect true and full equality to exist for all members of the LGBTQAI spectrum.
That means registering, being vocal on the issue and voting! While the vast majority of the Irish population does support marriage equality, we shouldn’t assume a win. This same vast majority tends to remain silent when it comes to referendums and right wing bigots like IONA and The Life Institute will be mobilising the opposition so nothing is certain.
Unite the Union will be doing their bit to promote the yes vote. Mobilisation of members within unions will play a key role in winning this and will provide a strong basis from which to work on other issues of discrimination and workplace harassment.
Marriageequality.ie has loads of materials available like this PDF The case for civil marriage equality in Ireland which can be of aid as a discussion tool or even just be left on a noticeboard. There is also a pretty interesting run-down on the history of same sex marriage that’s worth a gander as well.