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Gay people have right to be happy.

Byline: AVERIL POWER

Listening to Leo Varadkar's interview with Miriam O'Callaghan last week, I was both proud and sad.

I've known him since we studied at Trinity College together. He was involved in Trinity Young Fine Gael, while I chaired the Fianna Fail there.

We didn't agree on much then and don't now. But we've always got on well on a personal level.

Politically, I like his willingness to say it as it is, an all too rare trait among politicians.

As he bravely came out to Miriam and the nation I was proud of him.

He was obviously nervous speaking about something so personal but he did so with courage and dignity.

But I was also sad. Despite all he has achieved professionally, Leo reminded us that as a gay man in Ireland he is still denied one of the most basic and important rights of all - to marry the person he loves.

You could hear the hurt in his voice as he said he just wants "to be an equal citizen in my own country".

Gay men and women aspire to getting married for the same reasons as the rest of us.

They hope to find someone they love and want to spend the rest of their lives with.

They wish to express that love and commitment in front of their friends and family. And they want to share in the joys and overcome the challenges of married life.

I am a firm believer in marriage. It is good for couples, for families and for society.

It is very positive that Ireland's marriage rate is still far higher than that in other countries.

The introduction of divorce hasn't damaged it and neither would opening up marriage to same-sex couples. On the contrary, it would strengthen it.

If my gay friends get married it won't affect my marriage one bit. But it will make them happier.

Enshrining equal marriage in our constitution would also send out a very positive message that all our citizens, gay or straight, are entitled to the same rights and the same respect for their relationships.

The positive impact of this on young gay people cannot be overstated.

Despite the huge progress Ireland has made in gay rights, many young people still struggle to come to terms with their sexual orientation.

They are afraid of being rejected by their families. They worry about not having the same opportunities in life as their straight siblings.

They also fear being lonely and never being able to get married. As a result, gay teenagers are much more likely to be depressed, and even suicidal, than their straight peers.

Let's send them a strong message of love and solidarity by voting Yes in May.

The question on the ballot paper is simple - should two adults who love each other be allowed to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender? According to the polls, the vast majority of Irish people believe they should.

Therefore, No campaigners are worried they will lose the referendum if public debate focuses on the actual question voters are being asked.

As a result, they have cleverly decided to turn the referendum into a debate on other issues such as adoption and assisted human reproduction.

Gay people are already fostering and adopting children. No matter how we vote in the referendum that will continue to be the case.

Moreover, there is no evidence that children raised by same-sex couples are less happy or well-adjusted than those brought up by straight parents.

In fact, research shows the most important thing is that a child grows up in a stable, happy and supportive home.

The quality of the family environment is far more important than whether the child is raised by a mother and father, their grandparents or two mothers.

No campaigners are also trying to scare people by linking marriage equality with issues such as anonymous sperm donation and surrogacy.

They deliberately ignore the fact assisted human reproduction is used mostly by heterosexual couples.

They also neglect to mention you don't have to be married to use it and so it has no link whatsoever to a referendum on marriage equality.

It is an emotive issue and so provides fertile ground for scare-mongering.

As an adopted person, I believe all children should have a right to know their biological parents and I am opposed to anonymous sperm donation.

Therefore, I am glad the Justice Minister is banning this practice and that of commercial surrogacy.

However, this has nothing to do with the referendum on marriage equality.

It is about one thing and one thing only - the right to marry the person you love.

If, like me, you were sad to hear our Health Minister for Health speak about being a second-class citizen in his own country, please join me in voting Yes.

Send them a message of solidarity and love by voting Yes

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BRAVE Leo Varadkar has revealed he is homosexual
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Title Annotation:Editorial; Opinion; Leading articles
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 26, 2015
Words:827
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