‘LGBT Love – Why Civil Marriage is a Feminist Issue’
Meeting Notes, 5th March 2010
Cork Feminista hosted a 2-hour discussion on same-sex marriage and why it’s a feminist issue on Saturday 19th February 2011 from 2pm– 4pm in 8 North Mall. We had been receiving feedback from Cork Feminista members asking us to look at LGBT issues, and we thought Valentine’s Day – the ultimate day symbolising heterosexual love – would be the perfect opportunity to look at the issue of love and commitment from an LGBT perspective and why feminists – especially straight feminists – should be campaigning around the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Ireland.
Our speakers were Hazel Cullen of LGBT Noise, Moninne Griffith of Marriage Equality, and Dr. Angela O’Connoll, Researcher. Our other scheduled speaker, Toddy Hogan of LINC (Lesbians in Cork), sent her apologies. Each speaker had about 20 minutes to present some personal and professional reflections on the issue of marriage for same-sex couples. Hazel Cullen began her talk with a personal anecdote, about a man coming up to her in the street at the end of a night out, and when she told him she wasn’t interested and was gay, his response was, ‘But you’ll never have a family’. She then spoke about the limitations of civil partnership, and why we must continue to push for marriage. Moninne Griffith spoke about Marriage Equality’s work on the KAL case (Zappone and Gilligan v Revenue) and campaigning for full and equal rights for same-sex families, and also related a personal anecdote about issues relating to the assumption of parental rights in heterosexual marriage – i.e. that even if you are separated from your spouse, they are deemed to be the parent of any child you have while still married. Dr. Angela O’Connell, who conducted her Ph.D. research on ten lesbian couples and their families, spoke about how marriage – though important in promoting fairness – will not ensure that same-sex families get many of the rights and privileges they want and need. She emphasised that although the push for marriage equality is important, we must continue to push for rights of families and children – in or out of marriage – to be protected.
We had a respectable crowd, who had very thought-provoking comments and questions, allowing for an engaging and even critically challenging discussion of the issue of marriage. Issues relating to ‘family’ framed the entire discussion, because the rights of same-sex couples pertaining to their children has remained entirely unprotected in the current Civil Partnership legislation. The issue of why feminists were often critical of the fight for marriage equality – because marriage is considered a patriarchal institution – came up. One person commented afterwards that it was an amazing experience to be able to speak about same-sex marriage in a ‘safe space’, where campaigning for the right to equality didn’t equate a full-fledged embrace of the patriarchal institution of marriage.
We were delighted with meeting, and thought many incredibly important points came out about the need to continue fighting, and why feminists need to be involved in the campaign to promote and protect the needs and rights of non-normative families, no matter whether they promote ‘marriage’ as an institution or not. Cork Feminista are hoping to schedule a follow-up meeting on these issues sometime in the late Spring/early Summer, as Katherine Zappone and Ann-Louise Gilligan have expressed their interest in coming down to Cork to talk about the results of their Supreme Court case.