Rory O’Carroll: ‘I will vote to end discrimination against gay and lesbian couples’

Children who are part of same-sex couple families deserve and need constitutional protection, says Dublin footballer

 Rory O’Carroll: ‘Working in the field of social work I have seen gay people suffer hugely with issues around their emotional wellbeing at the hands of stigma.’ Photograph: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Rory O’Carroll: ‘Working in the field of social work I have seen gay people suffer hugely with issues around their emotional wellbeing at the hands of stigma.’ Photograph: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

 

A friend of mine recently wrote this about the marriage equality referendum:

“Being in the closet is one of the loneliest, scariest and most confusing of places to be. The anxiety and self-doubt never fully dissipate. It stays with you like a head cold that has improved but that you can’t quite clear. Coming out didn’t make me proud, just less ashamed than before.

“The build-up to this referendum has taught me that there is something that troubles me. Something not easily described. It’s like a nagging shadow, a feeling that I am still different; less somehow. A Yes vote will help gay people let go of this shame. It will mean we can go about daily life knowing that the de facto position of those around us is not one of disapproval but one of support, kindness and respect.”

I will be voting Yes on May 22nd for him and for others in his position. I will vote for the children and families of same-sex couples, for the gay and lesbian children of Ireland and for the children of future generations. I want to be part of an accepting society that embraces change for the better. I will vote to end the discrimination against gay and lesbian couples and am asking all my friends and family to do the same.

If I am fortunate enough to ever parent children, and one or all of them happen to be gay, I want to be able to look them in the eye and say: “I voted Yes so you could have the same right as everybody else”. I want them to grow up in a society where same-sex marriage is just as legitimate as any other civil marriage, and the prohibition of same-sex marriage will be nothing more than a distant and alien concept.

Currently, children who are part of same-sex couple families deserve and need constitutional protection. They are entitled to this and anything that falls short is favouring one family type over another. The family was redefined many years ago; the Constitution simply needs to catch up.

When voting I would encourage people to think of the gay and lesbian children of Ireland, and for the children of future generations. Consider the 16- and 17-year-olds who are powerless in this referendum, restlessly awaiting how we will dictate their future. Remember, “tread softly as we tread on their dreams”.

Working in the field of social work I have seen gay people suffer hugely with issues around their emotional wellbeing at the hands of stigma. If this marriage referendum passes, those problems will not disappear. However, a Yes vote will help pave the way for an Ireland where the gay and lesbian community can feel accepted, respected and equal in the eyes of the State and their fellow citizens, in classrooms, workplaces and dressing rooms all over Ireland.

When I think of equality I think of how the Catholics in the North of Ireland were brutally discriminated against because of their religion, because of the families they happened to be born into. I think of how black people in South Africa suffered similar treatment due to the colour of their skin, because of the way they were born. Now, in Ireland, in 2015 I see gay and lesbian couples being denied the right to marry the person they love because of their sexual orientation - because of the way they were born. Such inequality belongs in the past.

The intervention of the Referendum Commission and the chairman of the Adoption Authority has been helpful in clarifying some of the issues that have clouded the debate. We now know that surrogacy and adoption are not, and never were, relevant to this referendum. The best interests of children will always take precedence over the rights of adults. Voting Yes will not compromise the welfare of any child and the adoption process will not be changed. The outcome of this referendum will, in no way whatsoever, deprive any child of their biological mother or father. Moreover, all major children’s advocacy groups have resoundingly advocated a Yes vote. It has also been clarified that civil partnership and civil marriage are, in fact, different.

I have met some fantastic people while canvassing, people who have tirelessly dedicated every waking moment to ask their fellow citizens whether they can have their permission to access marriage. I can’t imagine how it must feel to have to make this request. They shouldn’t have to ask.

I would encourage voters to look into the eyes of the people whose future they hold. My friend concluded our discussion with the following:

“The support from all over Ireland has been hugely uplifting. Yesterday I wore my Yes Equality badge around Limerick. I shook with both fear and excitement as I put it on in public for the first time. This simple gesture of wearing my badge meant so much more than showing how I intend to vote. For me, it was a symbol of acceptance, not only from everyone else, but from myself. No longer a burden – but a badge of honour. I will put it on every day until the referendum. I will wear it with pride.”

Rory O’ Carroll is an All-Ireland winning Dublin footballer and newly qualified social worker

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