Deputy Seamus Healy: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this legislation and I confirm my support for the Bill. I will be voting “Yes” in the forthcoming referendum on 22 May. The referendum arises from the Constitutional Convention vote of 79 to 19 in favour of same-sex marriage. This is a civil rights and equality issue and is about removing the barriers which deny some couples the chance of marrying and having relationships that are constitutionally protected. I believe that loving committed relationships between two consenting adults should be treated equally regardless of gender or sexual orientation. In a democratic republic based on equal citizens, such as Ireland, civil marriage should be open to all citizens, including lesbian and gay people.
As Deputy Pringle has just said, in the many countries where marriage equality has already been introduced, marriage has not been changed or damaged. There are no fewer marriages taking place than before, public perception of marriage has not been damaged and divorce rates have not increased. There is absolutely nothing to fear from allowing people to marry those whom they love and neither is there anything to fear from treating every committed, long-term relationship equally. A “Yes” vote in May will create a fairer society in which, regardless of one’s sexuality, one is not any different. By voting “Yes” we will tell all gay and lesbian people in our community that we want them to be treated the same as everyone else. By voting “Yes” we will tell them that we see them as equal citizens.
Father Iggy O’Donovan in a recent article in The Irish Times raised some issues which should inform this debate and our decision on the issue. He argued that “In Ireland, we have inherited a tradition which has associated religion and politics in a way that has excluded some of our fellow citizens” but that “the State is a secular reality whose principal duty towards religion is to ensure its freedom”. He went on to say, in the context of the referendum: “When we become legislators, though, as we do when we vote in referendums, we legislate for ALL our fellow citizens. We do not vote as members of this or that church or faith.” He argued that we need to remember the difference between civil and religious law and also that it is possible to have “deep and passionately held convictions without seeking to have those convictions imposed by the State on fellow citizens who do not share them and may have opposite convictions which are equally deep and passionately held”. He argues further that “Respect for freedom of others to hold religious or moral views which we ourselves find we cannot share is a sign of strength, not weakness”.
I support the Bill and will be supporting the referendum.
Seamus Healy TD