* Writer’s Note: I’m sorry I haven’t written a blog in a while but I have been busy with moving to a new apartment over the last week, plus I was a bit under the weather the week before. Weekly blogs are back on now! It was very nice of people to actually ask when my next blog was going to be out. It made me really happy to know that you enjoy reading them and I will try my best not to leave again! *
People who live outside of Galway are probably wondering what the Burke Campaigns are so I will quickly do a brief explanation.
The Burke’s are a family from Castlebar who are known for their campaigns against Gay Marriage, where they quote Leviticus, and claim that the gay community invented AIDS. They are made up of Martina and Sean Burke, and their ten children, all of whom have biblical names. The parents of the family run the website Campaign for Conscience where they post articles on issues such as abortion and Christian values. They have been part of daily conversation in Galway recently as two of the Burke children who attend NUI Galway have been running for positions on the NUIG Students Union. Enoch Burke who is the part of the Christian Union Society, has been running for Equality Officer. His younger brother and Auditor of the College’s Life Society, has been running for Post-Graduate Officer.
Enoch Burke running for Equality Officer in my eyes is a complete and utter joke. If it had been any other position such as his brother going for Post-Graduate Officer, I would have no problem with it, but someone who is well known for being anti gay simply can not even be considered for a position like this. What if a gay person came to him because he/she had been attacked because of their sexuality? Would he have just turned them away claiming it was their own fault? If he saw someone on the campus being verbally abused because they were gay would he just walk by like it was nothing? Would he join in? The Equality Officer position means you work to make sure everyone is being treated equally no matter what the colour of their skin is, what religion they follow, or what their sexual orientation is. Someone who opposes gay people simply can not be allowed to hold this position.
NUIG held a Gay Marriage Referendum last week. In the weeks before hand, both sides were campaigning for people to either vote Yes or No. The Christian Union Society and the Burke family of course were campaigning for a No Vote. Though I don’t agree with their views, I do admit that they had every right to do so. If they were simply expressing their views peacefully and fairly then I would have no problem with them doing so, even though I believe they are wrong. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However what I strongly disagree with are the Christian Union’s posters in which they say ‘To permit couples of the same gender to avail of marriage is to change this definition. Once altered in part, the entire definition is then subject to change. For example, the NAMBLA group (USA) are now lobbying for marriage status for pedophilic men-boy relationships.’ They basically compare being gay to being a pedophile. In my opinion that is completely outrageous and bordering on a hate crime. Gay marriage is the legal joining of two consenting men or two consenting females who love each other for the rest of their lives. Pedophilic marriage is the legal joining of an adult who is sexually molesting an underaged person. Those two are completely separate issues both legally and morally. The idea of comparing the two on any level is completely uncalled for, offensive and down right disgusting.
Photo taken by Cian Moran of NUIG Christain Union Anti Gay Marriage Poster.
On Wednesday the 12th of March, the Burke family started a campaign stand beside Smokies Cafe to promote pro-life and to oppose gay marriage. Once again, that is perfectly fine as they have the right to do so. Of course this upset many people around the campus who were already upset over the statements on the Christian Union Posters. A similar protest started around the Burke’s stand where people held a sit in and held up ‘Love, Don’t Hate’ Posters. These people also had the complete right to do so. Things got heated however when the Burkes claimed that someone “trashed” their stall, though many have said that a few of their flyers had simply been pushed around. Crowds started to gather and the Gardai had to be called to keep the situation under control. Sean Burke, the father of Enoch and the other Burke children, arrived on the scene and apparently started shouting at anyone who challenged his views on gay marriage. The students fought back to the Burke’s claims and many videos of this can be found of this online. For this part of the protest, I am very proud of the students of NUIG who stood up for what they believed in. They kept their protest peaceful and showed great unity on behalf of not on the colleges’ gay and lesbian community, but the entire country’s. I certainly hope their protest shows the government during this very delicate time, that gay marriage is something that we are willing to fight for.
Though I am still proud of everyones protest, there is one part of it I wished had been left out. Everyone started to encourage male and female students, some of which were complete strangers to each other to start kissing in front of the Burkes. They also held mock gay marriages, again some of the “couples” being complete strangers to each other. Though I understand that this was an effort on behalf of the students to show their support for gay couples I think this was a bit much. I personally felt that the mock marriages were making a mockery out of the idea of marriage. To have strangers “marry” each other shows a lack of respect for the idea of marriage, Marriage is something to take seriously and if gay people want the right to marry then showing the respect and seriousness it deserves is something that people need to show. Why would people fight for a couple to marry if they don’t take it seriously?
The Burkes left the building at 6.30 to the sound of an applauding crowd. As someone who believes that marriage is something every consenting adult has the right to, the pride I felt for the students of my old university is something I will hold on to for many years. The Catholic Church has had a strong grasp on this country for a long time, but it is events such as this that shows that we are slowly changing for the better and becoming more open minded, loving and tolerant of our fellow human being. Everyone has the right to love and be loved no matter what anyone says. If you are a man that loves a man, a woman that loves a woman, a man that loves a woman, or a woman that loves a man, their is no difference. Love is love and is worth fighting for. As long as the two people are making each other happy then there is no problem in my eyes. So well done NUIG, you certainly deserve a pat on the back for standing up for your fellow students. I hope you are all able to continue to spread your message of love and tolerance to the rest of the world.