This Friday, Ireland votes on whether to add the following to article 41 of the constitution:
Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.
This gives us the very rare opportunity to have our say on whether or not people of the same sex should be allowed to marry. It is a straight forward question concerning a civil right. While neither of us are gay (sorry lads) we both have close friends and family members who are and have been banging the Yes drum for a long time.
It’s not the words of politicians who are going to get this over the line, instead it’s the stories of real people who have been affected and who will see their lives change because of this amendment to the law.
If there are undecided people in your life then maybe one of the films from the list below will help them find the right thing to do. We are doing our tiny bit to try and get people to vote YES this Friday the 22nd of May. You should too.
The Kids Are All Right (PMcG)
The No side can’t fight this referendum on the core issue of allowing same sex couples to marry, so they’ve had to drag children into the equation. Blissfully ignorant to the fact that many same sex families have children in this country already and yet somehow the sky hasn’t fallen in nor the four horsemen been spotted.
The Kids Are Alright came out back in 2010 and tells the story of two children living with their biological mothers who want to get in contact with their biological sperm donating father. The film shows the many complexities life throws up and how we all do our best to cope. Showing that same sex couples face all the same doubts and insecurities that heterosexual couples do in trying to raise a family, it assures that the children will be just fine.
Love is Strange (NW)
Ira Sachs’ film from earlier this year tells the story of two gay New York men approaching retirement who can finally get married after almost 40 years together.
Unfortunately they have to move out of their apartment and into separate digs with family and friends after Alfred Molina’s character George loses his job as a teacher at a Catholic school. To their credit, the school had sort of “played along” and turned a blind eye for years, but his choice to get married had legitimised his relationship and brought him to the attention of the Archdiocese.
The film manages that incredibly tough balance between touching, funny and dramatic, with a feel that the story and it’s simple but heart-wrenching narrative arch could very well be adapted for the stage and retain all its charm. John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as Ben and George are just a wonderful couple to be around and seeing how their families and friends were around them shows that the world doesn’t have to stop turning when two blokes put a ring on it.
The Case Against 8 (PMcG)
Here’s my original review for The Case Against 8 which showed in November of last year. This documentary recounts the appeal of Proposition 8 in California which stated that marriage was between a man and a woman. We see the efforts of Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami who had to take the case of appealing Proposition 8 all the way to The Supreme Court over four tough years.
This is the perfect documentary for trying to change hearts and minds with regard to Friday’s vote. Thanks mainly to the heartfelt stories from Kris Perry saying how she has felt like a second class citizen all her life.
Les Invisibles (NW)
In 2012 French director and screenwriter Sébastien Lifshitz put together a book “The Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride. Gay Couples in the Early Twentieth Century” and a film accompanying it (The Invisibles – or The Invisible Ones on its US release) which showed many elderly French couples who had gone against the tide at a time when society wasn’t ready to accept them.
Lifshitz’ film is one of those that splits your allegiances between happiness at how these couples adapted and evolved, and deep regret that they had to do so. These were gay rights pioneers at a time when it was dangerous and uncool to be so. Let’s hope that stories like theirs can be confined to the history books.
One of the most refreshing things about Matthew Warchus’ 2014 film is seeing activists from two very different groups working together for a common good. It’s not explicitly about gay marriage (this is from a time when the very idea would have driven Thatcher’s Britain crazy), but is an approachable and simple story which will hopefully have opened a few people’s eyes to gay rights. With plenty of great set-pieces, there’s none better than the sight of the miners from Onllwyn travelling to London to lead the Gay Pride march in 1985.
Midnight Cowboy (PMcG)
I only saw this for the first time last week and while not about same sex marriage, it shows the unnecessary pain and heartache that results from having to hide who you really are.
If on Friday people vote Yes, it will send out a message to younger people who might be afraid to come out that we the Irish people see them as equals and while the road ahead may be difficult and not always plain sailing they can count on our legal and justice system to have their backs if all of the population doesn’t.