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Equality or difference?

“You talked to David Quinn? The lad from the Iona Institute? I’d say that was interesting. He’s a bit mad isn’t he?” This was the general response when people learned that the College Tribune had spoken to David Quinn on the issue of same-sex marriage. Most people automatically discounted anything he had to say as irrelevant and illogical. So what are the opinions and views of this bogeyman of the marriage debate?

In an interview last week, troche he told the College Tribune the following, viagra “the question has to be, I think in any debate whatsoever about marriage and the family…what’s in the child’s best interest? Family policy, marriage policy, it’s not primarily about adults at all, obviously. It’s mainly about children and their welfare. So whether you’re debating divorce, single parenting or cohabitation etc, at all points we have to ask ourselves, have we an interest as a society in promoting a particular type of family that’s most likely to maximize a child’s welfare? The type of family, generally, allowing for exceptions, that’s most likely to produce the best outcome for kids, is when you’re raised by your own mother and father.”

Quinn believes that, “if you go to a gender neutral concept of marriage, it’s a declaration that the differences between men and women are insignificant and that the differences between mothers and fathers are insignificant and that being raised by your own mother and father within the institution of marriage is no longer seen as a desirable goal in social policy, which is an extremely radical move to make.”

He has taken part in many public debates on this issue and stated that in any of them, “when you bring up the issue of mothers, fathers, children, those who advocate gay marriage invariably deny that there’s any special value in motherhood and fatherhood and they say that all that matters is that you are raised by two loving parents”. He went on, “Not only is this a denial of the differences between mothers and fathers, it’s also a denial that the biological tie counts for anything. Logically, if all that matters is that you are raised by loving parent figures, then they don’t have to be your own parents, let alone a man and a woman. These are the issues that are inevitably attached to the decision of whether to redefine marriage.”

If as a society we attach any special value to motherhood and fatherhood and the biological tie between parent and child, then Quinn believes that these institutions “need and should have institutional support and protection and encouragement.” This he says “has always been since the year dot, in any culture, what marriage has been about, precisely giving that relationship institutional protection.”

Quinn stressed that this family unit was the ideal, but said that, “maybe our society would rather say, no we don’t believe that anymore, we don’t believe there’s any essential differences between men and women, between mothers and fathers and we also don’t believe that the natural tie has any importance anymore either. Maybe we are prepared to go that far. I hope we don’t, because it would be just a remarkable thing to throw all that aside.”

When asked what he thought was behind the growing movement to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry he pointed out that “it’s being presented as an equality issue and obviously equality is a very powerful goal.” Quinn disputes this however, pointing out that, “it’s no breach of the principle of equality to treat different situations in a different way. So if you think of the essential differences between men and women, mothers and fathers, it makes perfect sense to treat that differently from any other kind of relationship. So therefore, to characterize it as an equality issue to me is a misnomer, but a lot of people think it is an equality issue and they say, ‘of course I’m all for equality.’”

Another reason Quinn cites for the growing popularity of the movement to have same-sex marriage legalised is “a terrible fear of being called homophobic if you don’t go along with [it]” and that people are anxious to be seen as tolerant.

He believes that the present unpopularity of the Catholic Church has a part to play, “the perception of marriage is very associated with the Catholic Church in Ireland and the Catholic Church at the moment is deeply unpopular. So it’s seen as a way of rejecting our Catholic past and becoming more modern, and people are very anxious to be seen as modern.”

Regarding media coverage of the issue of same-sex marriage Quinn states, “the consensus is overwhelming on it, that this is absolutely logical to allow same-sex marriage, because it’s an equality issue etc and this is the overwhelming message which is given to us by almost all media. That obviously has an effect on public opinion, but it also has an effect on suppression of alternative points of view, because the average person doesn’t think about these things one way or the other all day long so they simply don’t know how to argue back. So either they go with the flow or they simply go silent.”

What may surprise many at this point is that David Quinn believes that 90% of the demands of gay rights groups can be met, without, however, conceding the principle that there’s something special about motherhood and fatherhood. During the 90’s he supported the decriminalization of homosexual acts and supported partnership rights. He did however oppose Civil Partnerships as he saw them as a stepping-stone to marriage.

He states, “I am in favour of maintenance rights, hospital visitation rights, property settlement rights and so on.” Quinn is also in favour of these rights being extended to anybody in a caring dependent relationship saying, “there’s no reason why it should be restricted to sexual relationships, because then you create a new form of inequality where sexual relationships are preferred over non-sexual ones.”

Quinn went on to say, “I think what Irish people want is a fair deal, and by all means. I mean I even support guardianship rights for gay couples under particular circumstances. For example, the right to become a guardian to your partners biological child, assuming that the other biological parent is no longer on the scene.”

When asked why he thought there was such strong support in the university for same-sex marriage he cited that, “on a lot of issues there is unanimity in university.” He went on, “ I mean actually there is not enough debate in university about issues per se, not just this one. On any number of issues there is too much group-think.” Quinn believes that it was this same kind of group-think that took over the economy during the Celtic Tiger and he also is of the opinion that Catholicism was an exceedingly dangerous form of group-think in this country, saying, “It meant critical voices were not being heard or were being drowned out or demonized.”

Ultimately David Quinn and those who agree with him believe that there is something intrinsically important, different and special about the family unit where a child is raised by his or her own biological parents within the institution of marriage, which is between a man and a woman. They further see the raising of children as intrinsically linked to the definition of marriage and that the institution of marriage between a man and a woman should be protected and treated differently from other forms of relationships. Quinn states that, “it’s not discrimination to treat something special in a special way, that’s not discrimination.”

Perhaps many readers will disagree with David Quinn’s views on the marriage debate, regardless of this however, it is imperative always to keep an open mind when it comes to such important issues. This is true even if only to know what you’re arguing against in the debate.

For more information check out the Iona Institute website www.ionainstitute.ie

– James Grannell

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