Why I’m asking everyone I know to vote ‘Yes’

I can’t vote in this one. 28 years here, I’m still not an Irish citizen. Maybe because getting on with earning a living, paying my taxes and socialising seemed more important? Or because my blood is a cocktail of English, Welsh and Italian, not a drop of Irish? Not sure but anyhow never applied and hence voting in referenda is a no-go.

I do have strong feelings about the issue. From the outset I should maybe tell you my daughter is lesbian and she and her partner, Mum and Ma of two small and wholly delightful children, are getting married next week in the North of England. I shall, of course, be there to celebrate with them.

Personal matters apart, I cannot see why any sane and right-thinking person should wish to caste a vote other than in the ‘Yes’ box. I see same sex civil marriage as a civil rights issue, pure and simple. Whatever your views on homosexual relationships, emotional, physical or both it is simply wrong for a state to discriminate against certain of its citizens on the grounds of gender. 

The ‘No’ campaigners have muddied the waters here, introducing other elements, principally, I believe because their stance on the key issue is untenable. Most prominent of these is the ‘Children deserve a mother and a father’ slogan. I am here to tell you “No, they don’t”.

During the first five years of my life my father was mostly absent. There was a war on and, though he was old enough not to be conscripted, he enlisted in the Royal Air Force. Soon, he was promoted to corporal in the Military Police and went off to Scotland to stop a man called Hitler from nicking bricks and cement designated for airfield construction. He returned at intervals to disrupt my life.

Meanwhile I was being brought up by my mother, with the assistance of Aunty Margaret, her sister and Aunty Nellie, a ‘gingerbread’ from up the street. My dad’s periodic returns terrified me. He had a loud voice and big fists, which he used to use, sometimes on me, but more often on my mother. I was too young to know that these rages were, mostly, fuelled by alcohol. Even sober, he couldn’t stand being crossed. Spoiled rotten by his own mother, he was used to getting his own way.

When the war ended dad came home, resuming his job with Manchester Corporation. The behavioural pattern continued; indeed, it got worse, with periodic sulks, sometimes lasting as long as three weeks, woven into the thread.

Out of the house he was different – jovial, generous to a fault. He spoiled my cousins when they came to visit. I remember him handing out half crowns all round at a family gathering while, only the day before, he had stopped my pocket money for some misdemeanour.

I don’t thinkI was quite the boy he wanted. I wasn’t the rough-and-tumble sort. He bought me boxing gloves for my birthday and whenever he got them out of cupboard I hid. His interest in any academic success I had was limited to bragging about me to his pals in the pub. He used to compare me to my pals. When I came home to tell him I’d got 80% in an English exam, his sole remark was “What did David Humpage get?” When it came to sport he seldom passed up the opportunity to put me down. I was rubbish at football, cricket, table tennis, you name it.

And all the while the rages, the violence, the sulks. Jarred, he broke my mother’s ribs once, on holiday in the Isle of Man. Returning, she told family she’d slipped on the gang plank. That was the way with battered wives in those days.

I should end it there. But not without saying I spent my whole childhood wishing I had two mothers.

I am proud of my daughters, both of them. They have grown up into lovely human beings with fine values. They work in occupations that benefit the community. They are both terrific parents, one single, heterosexual; the other in a gay relationship, soon to be a marriage. Katie, Alex, Maggie and Tove, my grandchildren have and will continue to be enveloped in love; inculcated with sterling values; their views respected and cherished.

The lesson is simple: it matters not whether you have one parent or two or whether they are straight or gay, Christian or atheist or whatever. What matters is the quality of that or those parents.

The foregoing has been hard to write. But, in the end, how much better is my grandchildren’s childhood than was mine with the father the Nay-sayers would say I “deserved”?