Until gay couples can walk down any street hand in hand without fear of abuse, we have not reached our ultimate goal
Speaking during statements on the Constitutional Convention Report on Same Sex Marriage in the Dáil this evening (Tuesday), Fine Gael Cork South Central Deputy and Chair of the Party’s LGBT Group, Jerry Buttimer, said the progress that has been made over the last 20 years in advancing gay right has been remarkable but that a considerable amount of work still needs to be done if we are to create an Ireland in which all people, gay and straight, are treated equally.
“In the last 20 years, we have moved from being a country where being lesbian or gay was seen in only in the context of shame; where gay people were criminals in the eyes of the State; where many lesbian and gay people had to leave Ireland in order to find the space to be themselves; and who were not permitted to share their real selves with their families and friends.
“We are now at a point where lesbian and gay couples can openly celebrate their love and commitment through civil partnerships. However, we have yet to reach a point where gay couples can walk down the street in any town or village in Ireland, hand in hand, without fear of being subjected to abuse.
“In April, the Constitutional Convention debated the issue of same sex marriage and the generosity, openness and respect with which these issues were discussed was heartening. During the debate, people gave serious consideration to the type of Ireland they wanted to see, one which they have a unique role in shaping. The delegates voted overwhelmingly to recommend that this Ireland, our new Ireland, should ensure equal treatment of lesbian and gay couples and that the law should take account of their family structures and make provisions to protect them.
“On the back of this, Minister Shatter is bringing forward the Family Relationships and Children Bill next year which will deal with adoption for lesbian and gay couples in 2014 and the Government has committed to putting a referendum to the people on same sex marriage in the first half of 2015.
“In giving this commitment, the Government is sending a loud signal that it believes in an Ireland that cherishes all citizens equally, recognising that we all benefit from fair treatment and from equal status in the eyes of the law; allowing lesbian and gay couples the right to be civilly married in Ireland and affording their relationships the same protection and recognition in our Constitution is the best way of achieving that goal and fostering an open, tolerant and respectful Ireland.”