Fine Gael TD for Galway West & Mayo South

Marriage Equality – Why I’m voting YES

“It’s difficult enough to find love in this world and where two same sex individuals find love and wish to have this recognised and acknowledged by the Irish State then this should be made possible via civil marriage. This will provide equality and protection to these couples”.

The above quote was one I gave to the organisation Marriage Equality which was seeking the views of all candidates in the then local elections in 2009.

In the six years since then I have been fortunate enough to be elected to Dáil Eireann as a TD to serve and represent the people of Galway. My constituency work, and my work at the Oireachtas, have only reaffirmed my support for Marriage Equality.

I’m voting Yes on 22nd May and I hope you will too.

I’m voting Yes because a Yes Vote is a powerful message of the inclusive, accepting and open Republic that we would like our country to be.

I’m voting Yes becuase a Yes Vote will give constitutional protection to same-sex couples, the same protections and rights that opposite-sex couples currently enjoy. Bunreacht na hÉireann reflects our ideals, it’s where we enshrine the rights and protections that all of us should enjoy and that the State ought to protect and vindicate.

Civil partnership was a significant step but it’s not equality. Theoretically, all of the civil partnerships across Ireland could be dissolved if the majority of the members of the Oireachtas decided to rescind the legislation. A Yes Vote on 22nd May will replace this danger with protection.

I’m Voting Yes because a Yes Vote will make Ireland the first country in the world to introduce equal marriage by referendum. A proud and significant achievement, it would be a signal to the world – but also much more importantly – to our citizens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) – that our society is built on inclusiveness, respect and solidarity.

By now you have probably heard much of the debate on the Marriage Equality referendum. Much of the debate has been respectful, an honest exchange of sincerely held views. Some of the debate has been misleading, hurtful and disrespectful.

The Referendum on May 22nd is about marriage – extending the right to marry. Let us not be misled by the claims that it is about children. The Children and Family Relationships Act is equally important but separate to the referendum. Recently passed by the Oireachtas the Act is landmark reform of legislation affecting families and finally gives legal recognition to the diverse family units which exist and have existed for decades in Ireland.

You’ve also probably heard the hysterical argument about how a Yes vote will facilitate adoption by all sorts of people. This is nonsense. Nobody – man or woman, gay or straight, same-sex or opposite sex couple, has an automatic right to adopt. Rather, a person or a couple – opposite or same-sex – has the right to apply to adopt and by doing so agree to the rigorous process that the State correctly has in place for adoption.

Another argument put forward by the No side is that marriage is a special relationship that cannot be changed – it’s always been between a man and a woman. But the concept of marriage has rightfully evolved – in the uncomfortably not-too-distant past a married woman was considered property of her husband and divorce was not permitted which ignored the fact that relationships sometimes unfortunately break down. We’ve changed the concept of marriage before and we can do so again.

Another argument is the ‘different situations’ argument. Same sex relationships, we are told, are not the same as they cannot facilitate procreation. In my view this is an extraordinarily sexist, insensitive and ageist argument because it implies that a couple who cannot produce offspring should be treated less than a couple who can. It’s ageist because it ignores the fact that older people can and thankfully do find romance. It’s insensitive because it presumes that the right to marry is conditional on your ability to have children. And it’s sexist because a man, unlike a woman, can become a biological parent at any age. And it ignores the many couples who for legitimate reasons decide not to have children.

Yet another argument is that that a yes vote will force religions to carry out same sex marriages. This is not true. This referendum is about civil marriage. It will not affect religious marriage and no religious organisations will be obliged to perform same sex marriages. No church, for example, has been forced to marry a divorced person since the introduction of divorce in 1996.

I understand some people may find it difficult to understand the concept of same sex love or relationships. In the past, it wasn’t discussed. It happened elsewhere, to other people. But in truth, the Marriage Equality referendum will affect people, families and communities across Galway and the country. And a Yes Vote will positively impact on lives and on our communities.

There are few experiences more wholesome, fulfilling and uplifting than finding that special someone. Having that love recognised by the State is natural and the State needs to embrace commitment. Commitment has always been what marriage is about. Two people committing to each other – to support one another, to share their lives together. By voting Yes on 22nd May we can ensure that the State embraces and cherishes commitment.

Same sex marriage does not devalue the marriages between a man and a woman. It does not weaken or lessen existing marriages. In fact, a Yes Vote will strengthen marriage and society.

Above all this referendum is about people. It’s about people who happen to be LGBT across Galway and Ireland whose relationships will finally be valued equally.

The higher the Yes Vote on 22nd May, the more powerful the message that we send to the world that Ireland approaching the centenary of 1916 has become an inclusive, accepting and welcoming Republic for all of its citizens.