By Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland
May 22 will be an historic date in Ireland. It is a day when we all, as Irish people, have a chance to stand for a Republic of equals. A day when we can more fully realise equality for all of our people.
On that day, a simple yes/no vote in a national referendum will decide whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) couples in this country can celebrate the right to commit to the person they love through civil marriage.
Love does not discriminate, and neither should our laws. There is no objective justification for denying access to civil marriage to same sex couples. It serves no legitimate social purpose or national interest. Therefore to do so is discrimination.
But, predictably, not everyone believes that. And in the campaign for and against marriage equality, the battle lines have been drawn around the country in recent weeks. As in any battle, one of the first casualties has been the truth.
The “No” side of the referendum have stooped to misrepresentation to drive home their argument.
A mother and father whose family photo has unwittingly been used in a poster for the “No” camp have told Amnesty International they are upset the image is being used to promote a message that they profoundly disagree with.
The family, who are expecting their second child in June, do not want to be the poster family for the “No” side in this referendum.
They want to ensure that when people look at those posters on lamp posts all around the country, and feel angry or upset because of how it judges them or members of their family, that the real family on the poster values them, values their relationships and ALL families. They want them to know that they would vote “Yes”.
They have asked Amnesty International to share the truth behind the image portrayed in the “No” campaign poster:
The background: in 2014, as a young family, we did a photo shoot with a photographer friend to get some nice shots for the family album. No money was exchanged – we got nice photos for free, they got nice images for their portfolio. As part of this agreement, we agreed to let them upload them to a stock photo album. We knew that these were available for purchase and we gave permission. Perhaps, naïvely, we imagined that on the off chance that any was ever selected, it might be for a small magazine or website.
To confirm, we have not received any money for the photo – then or now, and nor do we expect any.
We were surprised and upset to see that the photo was being used as part of a campaign with which we do not agree. We completely support same-sex marriage, and we believe that same-sex couples should of course be able to adopt, as we believe that they are equally able to provide children with much-needed love and care. To suggest otherwise is offensive to us, and to many others.The family pictured in the "No" campaign poster
We were surprised and upset to see that the photo was being used as part of a campaign with which we do not agree. We completely support same-sex marriage, and we believe that same-sex couples should of course be able to adopt, as we believe that they are equally able to provide children with much-needed love and care. To suggest otherwise is offensive to us, and to many others.
No one can convince us that life-long unions of so many loving same-sex couples here in the UK and in Ireland, are inferior to heterosexual unions, and it is important to us that our many gay friends know that we feel this way. Discrimination on the grounds of sexuality has no place in the 21st century. If we were residents of Ireland, not the UK, we would vote Yes for marriage equality.
In a free society, everyone has the right to express their opinion and campaign for what they feel is right.
We are not lawyers and therefore cannot comment on whether the use of the photo violates any terms and conditions regarding use of stock photos of children for political use, though we are interested to know more about this.
We are unhappy that the image of us was used for a political campaign as legally this seems a bit of a grey area, and we would have expected that for a big campaign like this, Mothers & Fathers Matter might have sought out images of people who represent their views. We are aware of the offer from Mothers & Fathers Matter for dialogue and are deciding whether to pursue this.
We look forward to raising our son (in the picture) and our second child (due in June) to be open-minded and unafraid of change, and to respect all colours, creeds and sexualities etc. Above all we hope that children in Ireland, will be guaranteed the equality that our children enjoy, and will be able to grow up in a society which guarantees them full equality before the law, no matter who they love when they eventually go on to form adult, loving, committed relationships.
Finally, the poster uses a stock image to present a particular view of a family. Well, we are the real family in that photograph. So for the record, here is what we think. This family believes that every child deserves to be loved and cherished. This family believes that everyone has a right to marry the person they love regardless of their gender. This family believes that EVERY family matters. And this family would vote “Yes”.
Ireland’s Marriage Equality Referendum
Read more about Amnesty International Ireland’s campaign ahead of the vote.