Dublin GAA star Ger Brennan: I’m no homophobe, and I’m voting ‘no’

“I don’t think it makes sense to say children should not be part of a debate about marriage and the family”

Dublin GAA star Ger Brennan has said he will vote ‘no’ in the referendum on same-sex marriage because he believes children deserve a right to a mother and a father.

Mr Brennan also admits that he’s “sick of the accusations being flung around that if you vote ‘no’ you are homophobic”.

Writing in the Irish Independent newspaper, Mr Brennan – a schoolteacher and All-Ireland winning medallist – says “I very nearly decided not to write this piece. I know I'll be targeted for it and labelled for it. It would have been easier to keep my mouth shut and not rock the boat.

“I know I’m not homophobic; my gay friends and family can attest to that. I am voting ‘no’ because I don’t want our Constitution to deny that it is a good thing for a child to have a mother and a father”.

According to Mr Brennan, “everybody, regardless of sexual orientation, is an equal member of the human family and is entitled to equal protection before the law.

“Ireland, as a society, has thankfully progressed in its acceptance of gay people and this is to be embraced.

“As a sports player, I too, have publicly supported this embrace when last March I stated: ‘as a member of the GAA and of the Gaelic Players Association, it’s all about diversity and inclusiveness. If a person, man or woman, is playing for their club or county I don’t see what their sexuality has to do with anything. It’s about a person being happy and true to themselves.’ And this conviction remains true today,” Mr Brennan writes in the opinion piece.

He adds: “I am proud to love my gay family members and my gay friends. And yet I feel strongly there is more to the marriage debate than adult equality."

Equal citizens

“For a start, this isn’t a referendum on whether we like gay people or whether they should be equal citizens according to the Constitution. They already are equal citizens. Article 40.1, which deals with equality, declares that all citizens shall be held equal before the law. We are not being asked to amend Article 40. We are instead being asked to amend Article 41, which deals with the family and with marriage,” he writes.

The All-Star player adds: “nor is this referendum about whether gay couples should have their relationships recognised by the State. They already do. Bar a couple of minor grey areas to be ironed out legislatively, gay couples in civil partnerships have all the rights married couples have. Civil partnership ceremonies are virtually identical to civil marriage ceremonies.

“Each of us possesses different types of potential (our unique sexuality, gifts, talents, etc.,). With this understanding of equality, I don't think it makes sense to say children should not be part of a debate about marriage and the family,” he says.

Mr Brennan points out that “the reason why the Constitution recognises marriage in the first place is because of its role in connecting children with their biological parents. That’s why the Constitution describes the family based on marriage as ‘the natural primary fundamental unit group of society’. Children’s interests should come before all else. So if we redefine marriage and the family we are obviously going to affect children. We should be mature enough to accept this."

He goes on to point out that all legislation is derived from the Constitution and its principles “so it seems pretty clear that if we redefine marriage and the family by making marriage genderless we will be denying that there is any special value in a child having both a mother and a father."

Different circumstances

“Obviously, life is complicated and filled with different circumstances. Many children grow up without either a mam or dad (or even both). But I don’t see why the State should use its adoption or surrogacy laws to deliberately leave some children motherless or fatherless. That can’t be child-centred. And it can’t be child-centred to use a law to create a child who will be deliberately deprived of the opportunity to know and be cared for by their own biological parents. But that's the only way same-sex couples can start a family,” he says.

Mr Brennan observes that it “seems like every celebrity and every group in the country is calling for a ‘yes' vote.

“Even the Gardaí have been used by the ‘yes’ campaign to support the referendum proposal. I see all the ‘vote no’ posters being ripped down and defaced all across Dublin without anyone in politics or in the media condemning it.

“The Universal Declaration on Human Rights proclaims that everybody is equal in dignity and it holds that marriage is a male-female union. I don’t think the Declaration of Human Rights is homophobic. I’m voting ‘no’,” he concluded.