Heather Barwick was the speaker that left the most lasting impression on those who attended a major conference last weekend on the marriage referendum, organised by Mothers and Fathers Matter, the main body campaigning for a ‘no’ vote.
Heather was raised by her mother and her mother’s lesbian partner. That is, she had two mums. There is a book called Heather Has Two Mommies that is aimed at young children and is intended to instil in them the idea that being raised by a lesbian couple is just as normal as being raised by a mother and a father.
A real-life Heather has now grown up and has her own story to tell. Her story is that she deeply loves her mother but she also deeply misses having had a father in her life.
Heather spoke of the pain of this during her talk last Saturday at Marino Institute in front of a crowd of almost 200 people. It was very clear to the audience that she still feels this pain. It is the experience of people like Heather that must be taken into consideration by the Irish people before they vote on the marriage referendum on May 22.
If we vote ‘yes’, we will be giving our official seal of approval to deliberately depriving people like Heather Barwick of either a mother or a father.
Supporters of a ‘yes’ vote say that many children are already growing up without either a mother (or more commonly) a father. That is true. But why would we want this to happen by deliberate design and with the full approval and cooperation of the State?
Heather Barwick and others like her know perfectly well that with or without same-sex marriage, same-sex couples will have children through adoption, through assisted human reproduction or, as in her case, they will be brought into a same-sex parent household from a previous heterosexual relationship.
Heather’s point is this: “Legalising gay marriage will devalue motherhood and fatherhood and hurt children. If my mom and her partner had married it would not have made my life any better. It would have simply added an exclamation point to the fact that I would never have a father.”
In other words, gay marriage gives an official seal of approval to gay couples to have children and in so doing deliberately and intentionally deprive those children of either a mother or a father. This happens every time a same-sex couple, no matter how loving they are, raise a child.
Heather Barwick used to support same-sex marriage. It took her a long time to be able to admit to herself and then to her mother and then to the public that she wishes she had been raised by a father as well as a mother.
Each step in this process took courage. It can be hard to admit to yourself that something was missing from your life growing up.
It can be extremely hard to admit this to your remaining biological parent, in this case Heather’s mother.
Heather loves her mother. Heather didn’t want her mother to feel bad because Heather missed having a father.
Admitting this to her mother was also a big hurdle to cross.
Finally, she decided to admit this to the wider world on behalf of other children who are now and will in the future be raised by same-sex couples. Her message to them; it’s ok to miss your other biological parent whether it be your mother or your father.
For admitting this, for saying this, Heather was savagely attacked by supporters of same-sex marriage. They don’t want anyone to say what Heather said. They want only total silence.
No child raised by a same-sex couple can be permitted to say, ‘I missed my mom’, or ‘I missed my dad’.
The only voices supporters of same-sex marriage want to permit are those that say, ‘I didn’t miss my mom’, or ‘I didn’t miss my dad’.
This is just one more example of gay marriage supporters bullying every opposing voice into silence. It is absolutely unacceptable – inhuman and inhumane in fact – that people like Heather Barwick are shouted down for uttering the simple and entirely understandable sentiment, ‘I missed my dad’.
The least bad thing that has been said to Heather by supporters of gay marriage is that it was not the fact of being raised by a lesbian couple that hurt her, but the fact that her mother and father divorced when she was still very young.
No doubt that is part of the hurt. However, as Heather explains, it is simply an unavoidable fact that whenever a child is raised by a same-sex couple, either the mother or the father is always missing from the child’s life, or at a minimum is not living under the same roof.
Children always come into a home headed by a same-sex couple either through divorce, through adoption or fostering or through the use of donor eggs and/or sperm plus a surrogate mother in some cases.
In each such case, there is automatically a mother or a father missing from the child’s life.
It is a scandal that people like Enda Kenny, Joan Burton and Micheal Martin have not encountered individuals like Heather Barwick and heard their stories. Or individuals like Elizabeth Howard who also spoke at the conference. Elizabeth’s father is a sperm donor and she will never meet him.
Our Government is prohibiting anonymous egg and sperm donation but the child conceived in this way will have no right to know who that biological parent is until they are 18. That is an attack on the rights of the child.
So this is what is at stake in this referendum. If we pass it, we will be giving our constitutional seal of approval to a vision of the family that says it is perfectly alright for people like Heather Barwick to be robbed of a father deliberately and then to tell her she is not allowed to say in public, ‘I miss my dad’.
Who could possibly vote for this?