|Colm Tóibín at the Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
As of now, we have, it seems, no wish to question marriage as an institution, or undermine the centrality of the family under the Irish Constitution; instead we seek to embrace marriage and strengthen the idea of the family and our involvement in it. We seek to enhance the institution of marriage. We want to make the same vows as others do, for the same reasons. We want to live in the ease and with the protection which marriage offers. It is not hard to see how much happiness and relief this will bring to us and to our families; it is, however, hard also to see how this will adversely affect other people who already enjoy the benefits of marriage, the majority of whom will, we hope, be generous enough to want to allow us to share what they already have. What we want is strangely simple: we want to be included. Winning the right to marry on May 22nd will lift a great weight from us and those who wish us well; it will be a liberation for us, and a milestone in the history of increasing tolerance in Ireland.
In 1941 the Irish novelist Kate O’Brien published The Land of Spices, which is one of her best novels, and one of the greatest novel ever written about the religious life. Towards the end of the third chapter, the young Helen Archer, who will later become a Reverend Mother, comes home unexpectedly from school in Brussels and saw her father and another man “in the embrace of love”.
This single image, the only reference to homosexuality in the book, is all the more explosive and dynamic because of that. For those four words “the embrace of love”, the book was banned by the Irish Censorship Board.
They are the very words now that, in this campaign, animate us and nourish us. Because we are not talking about abstract rights, abstract discrimination. We are not even talking about sexuality. Rather, we are talking about love, about the embrace of love, about how our love equals the love of our fellow citizens who are heterosexual, and how right and necessary it seems to us, indeed how much of an imperative, that our love should be ritualised and copper-fastened and celebrated in marriage in the same way as everybody else’s love. If there is someone who believes that our love is of a lesser order than theirs, how can they know this? Who have they asked?