The way the Stormont vote was reported was deceptive. The Guardian website had a headline saying in effect ‘NI Assembly votes for gay marriage legislation’; it was only when you got to the body of the piece that you discovered that, er, um, no, the legislation wasn’t really passed, because the DUP, exercising their rights, had stymied it.
Around the world, as several commentators have pointed out, this isn’t going to play well. The north of Ireland is the only region in these islands that does not permit gay marriage. It may soon find itself the only region in the Western world that doesn’t. So it would have helped our image a lot if, having raised the hare, it had pursued and conclusively dealt with it.
That said, I believe we should be concentrating on other things. Do those who’ll suffer from welfare cuts wake in the morning in a tizzy about the absence of gay marriage here? Do refugees trying to gain access to this country or others check the gay marriage legislation before getting off their boat? Do the 600+ homeless families in Dublin get the bus to Stormont to protest at the failure to pass gay marriage legislation?
And then there’s the odd way that gay marriage goes against the flow. In my lifetime in Ireland, marriage has undergone huge transformation. There are thousands of couples who just don’t bother with it. There are thousands of couples who, after a few years, get fed up with it and call it quits. In fact, there’s something very near crazy (or maybe even hypocritical) about vowing to stand by some one until death do you part, when deep down you know you’ll stand by one another until you can’t stand one another, at which point you’ll stop standing. Marriage is now a disposable product, if that’s what you want. So while many are by-passing or breaking free from the bonds of matrimony, the gay community are insisting on the right to have access to it.
If that’s what they want I wish them well; in fact I wish they could have it, so we could move on to things that press more heavily on people’s lives. Because the net effect of the gay marriage campaign is that public attention is pulled away from bigger, more pressing issues.