herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Marriage referendum: We're like any family but with two mums - 'Yes' campaigner Daire

Grainne Courtney with her daughter Daire and partner Orla Howard (LT) at their Glasnevin home last night.
Grainne Courtney with her daughter Daire and partner Orla Howard (LT) at their Glasnevin home last night.

TWO married women and their daughter are this week out canvassing for a 'Yes' vote in the same-sex marriage referendum.

Grainne Courtney, her partner Orla Howard and Grainne's daughter, Daire, live in Drumcondra and are putting their shoulders to the wheel with five days left to polling.

"We're as frustrating and as boring as anybody else's parents," Orla tells the Herald.

Grainne and Orla married in New York in 2013 and have another daughter, Clare (24), who is currently in India celebrating the end of her medical studies. Their family has no constitutional protection in Ireland and their commitment to each other is only recognised as civil partnership.

READ MORE: Marriage Referendum: I'm honoured my first vote will be for gay marriage, says Saoirse Ronan

With the impending referendum on gay marriage, they're concerned people assume civil partnership is, in fact, marriage for gay couples, just under a different name. Orla, Grainne and Daire (20) are keen to stress the differences and consequences.

"This is not the family home, under civil partnership this is a 'shared home' and there are big implications because of that," Orla says.

The Family Home Protection Act of 1976 regulates and prevents the sale or re-mortgage of a property defined as the family home without the knowledge and consent of both spouses.

"It legally protects both children and adults, and that is not there for the 'shared home'," Orla explains.

To those she meets while canvassing, who argue civil partnership is enough, Orla asks one question: "Would you downgrade your marriage to a civil partnership?"

Grainne, a specialist consultant at St James' Hospital, is both Daire and Clare's biological mother.

"Mum and Dad spilt up when I was two," Daire said. "Orla has been in the picture for more than half my life and it seems like a lot longer than that. We do feel like we have an extra parent."

The girls' father, also a medical professional, is very much involved in their lives and has regular contact with Orla and Grainne, who met 13 years ago.

"We're like any family. We have issues around who cooks dinner, who lights the fire, who does laundry, even boyfriends," Orla said.

In their early 20's, both Daire and Clare have already built up a wealth of experience campaigning for LGBT rights.

Clare spoke at the Constitutional Convention for same-sex marriage two years ago while Daire has been busy in the lead-up to Friday's referendum.

"It's really fun. It looks more like a group of friends meeting up than it does any organisation. People identify with that more than with the statistics and the fear that comes out of the 'No' side," Daire said.

The family describe the debate as one simply for equality.

"I do have an issue with people deciding that we don't deserve access to the same thing, or that our family is different. It's incredibly difficult to have to ask the whole country for permission to be an equal citizen," Orla points out.

The three speak passionately about the inaccuracies they say are being presented by the 'No' side and the current status of gay-marriage.

"There's this talk about theoretical children who've been deprived of a father and a mother, but there's actual real living children of gay parents who are being deprived of their constitutional right to be a family.

"What are you supposed to do with those children," Grainne asks.

"Whether the referendum passes or not, gay people will always want to have children, they will go on doing that. The referendum is not going to stop that, so those children will always be there and their rights need to be protected," she adds.

And if the referendum is passed...

"Gay people will get married," she says simply. "That's all."

"It's excluding when you put people into a different class, the way civil partnership does," Orla interjects.

change

"It separates people, and you set them up as people who are different. People who are different are discriminated against, bullied, treated differently and unequally and this is what needs to change," Orla adds.

While her life with Grainne, Daire and Clare is established, Orla worries about the implications of a 'No' majority on the young gay community.

"Imagine a teenage boy or girl who is struggling with their sexual identity and they wake up on Saturday to the country having said 'No, don't like you, don't think you're equal', God what a country."

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