No vote would send message gay people 'not equal' - Varadkar

Leo Varadkar said he would be 'devastated' if the marriage equality vote defeated

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is joined by cabinet colleagues and members of the public at the Fine Gael launch of the party's campaign for a Yes vote in Marriage Equality Referendum in Dublin. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

A No vote in the same sex marriage would send a message that gay people are not equal citizens in Ireland, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said.

Fine Gael launched its campaign for the upcoming referendum on same sex marriage with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a number of senior Ministers.

Mr Varadkar said he would be “absolutely devastated” if the vote was defeated. He said it would be worse than losing an election or losing his seat in Dublin West.

“A No vote would essentially be a majority voting to decide a minority in their country doesn’t have the right to be equal and are not equal.

“It says we are good enough to be Government Ministers, to teach children, to nurse the sick, to sit judgement on people in courts but not good enough to marry the man or woman we love.

“It will make it very difficult for people not out yet to come out. It will make it extremely difficult for young people grappling with their sexuality and I think it will make it very difficult for the every many lesbian, gay, transgender citizens who felt they had to go abroad and are now thinking about coming home, it will make it very difficult to decide to resume their lives in Ireland.”

Fine Gael will spend €150,000 on this campaign and put up 10,000 posters across the country in the run up to the poll on May 22nd.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said accepting this amendment to the Constitution will lift a burden off their shoulders of thousands of people struggling with their sexuality.

Mr Kenny said some of the arguments are trying to bring issues into the debate that have no relevance.

“This referendum is not about the question of children. This referendum is about civil marriage and civil law and equality under that law for every person irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender.

“The No campaign is deliberately involving issues that are not at issue here in the sense of what the referendum is about.”

The Taoiseach said he had travelled his own personal journey to be in the position where he is now campaigning for same sex marriage.

“It is an equality in marriage that I believe will greatly enrich our society. It is an equality in marriage that I believe will mark our development in becoming a true and a real Republic.”

Mr Kenny said society banished gay people because for them Ireland was a “cold house, a cruel and dysfunction home”.

The Taoiseach said Fine Gael must persuade people to open their hearts and vote Yes to “love, respect equal rights and to equal marriage”.

The launch heard from Edel Tierney, a gay woman and Enda Morgan, whose daughter is in a same-sex relationship with her girlfriend Marian.

Mr Morgan said his brother was gay so he and his wife had a strong connection to the gay community.

“She still found it to difficult to come out to us . She was repeating the words over and over to us ’Dad, I am so sorry, I am so sorry’.

“I remember saying ’what are you saying sorry for?’ and her real concern was what her extended family and friends would think.

“What was much more upsetting and frightening for me was that is how difficult it was for Rachel, what is it like for other boys and girls who have to come out to parents who do not have those touching points or that level of understanding.”

Mr Morgan said he wanted one thing for his daughter and her partner - the opportunity to say four words to each other.

He said Rachel and Marian should be allowed to get down on knee and ask each other “will you marry me?”

The Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald said it was time to move forward without fear or suspicion.

She said nobody in Ireland can honestly say they don’t have a son, daughter, niece or nephew, colleague or friend who cannot marry because of the Constitution.

Ms Fitzgerald said this is a once in a lifetime choice to bring them inside.