The Corkman Opinion Piece: The Marriage Equality referendum is about real people and real lives. A Yes is a vote for love. #MarRef

This Friday you have the opportunity to extend to LGBT couples the constitutional rights and guarantees enjoyed by civilly-married heterosexual couples. That’s all. Despite all the scaremongering, this referendum isn’t about fear. It’s about love.

This referendum is about real people, real lives. Look at the powerful testimonies of people like Pat Carey and Ursula Halligan and Justin McAleese. Think about all those lives ruined, all that love denied. You mightn’t know it, but this referendum may well be about your brother or sister, your son or daughter, your neighbour or friend.

This is a head-to-head debate. Alongside this is a piece advocating a No vote. It probably contains the usual red herrings about adoption and/or surrogacy, redefining marriage and/or family. It may say civil partnership – despite having no constitutional protection – is as good as marriage.

Rather than waste your time telling you this is not about adoption or surrogacy, I’ll trust your intelligence and ask you to go to, the independent Referendum Commission’s website. There you’ll see unbiased confirmation that the No campaign is arguing about everything except what’s in this referendum. This referendum is about kindness, generosity and love and the No campaign’s only weapon against that is fear.

“It won’t redefine what marriage is,” says Referendum Commission chairman, Mr Justice Kevin Cross. “It will redefine… who can marry.” This is, simply, about extending the embrace of constitutional recognition to the love of the 10% of Irish citizens who are gay.

To vote, you’ll need identification. A marriage certificate – accompanied by proof of address – will be accepted. The Department of the Environment confirms that a civil partnership certificate is not valid identification. So much for civil partnership being as good as marriage.

The No campaign claims all leading Irish children’s charities – and Ireland’s leading authority on adoption – are conspiring against children’s best interests. For all their concern about children, Ireland has long been a cold house for many of its children. Forced adoptions, Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries illustrate a cruel and deeply unequal country where discrimination and abuse reigned.

I believe equality should be the cornerstone of our Republic. I believe we should cherish all the children of our Nation equally. I believe that we, the citizens of Ireland, should extend to gay couples the same constitutional rights and guarantees enjoyed by civilly-married straight couples.

The No campaign talks about “protecting the traditional family”. One in three Irish families is non-traditional. Children have grown up in non-traditional families since Jesus was a small boy. Life is complicated. Love isn’t.

A Yes will send a powerful message of acceptance, respect and love to all our children – one in ten of whom is gay. A Yes will say to our children that regardless of the colour of your eyes, the shape of your face or the love in your heart – you are as Irish, as “normal” and as extraordinary as every child of this Republic.

A Yes is a vote for love.

Please vote Yes.

Originally published as one half of a head-to-head debate in The Corkman Thursday 21st May 2015

UPDATE: As it transpired, I was wrong to assume the NO column would stick to the touchy-feely lies about surrogacy and adoption and instead went Full Homophobe.