The referendum on same sex marriage will provide Ireland with an opportunity to lead the world by becoming a beacon of light at a time when many gay people live in darkness, the Fine Gael ard fheis was told.
Ted O’Connell from Bishopstown West warned delegates next year’s referendum was not about what happened in people’s bedrooms. It was about equality of esteem and equality of relationships.
Speaking on a motion supporting gay marriage, where there were no speakers against, Mr O’Connell read out a message he had recently received on Facebook describing the plight of gay people in many countries.
“If I lived in Uganda this week I would be jailed for life. My friends and family would be jailed if the didn’t report me. If I lived in Russia I wouldn’t exist but if I did I would be hunted and abused,” he said.
“If I lived in Iran I would be hanged. If I lived in some parts of Africa I could be stoned or burned to death. If I lived in some states in the US I would be an abomination.”
However, Mr O’Connell said he lived in Ireland where he was tolerated. He said while he was loved by many he was treated differently by the constitution.
He urged the packed hall not to believe recent opinion polls which have shown strong support for gay marriage and urged all members of Fine Gael to actively canvass for gay marriage.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter also warned against complacency saying it would not be an “easy” referendum as it was open to “misunderstandings” and he hoped that there would be a reasonable national conversation in the run up to the 2015 poll. “Conversation of a civilised nature”, he said. “Not abuse, no diatribes no political points scoring.”
It’s unlikely same sex marriage will provide Fine Gael with the political fallout over the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill during which it lost several TDs and Senators.
Mr Shatter said there were two important principles at hand. “Firstly, we should cherish and celebrate difference. Secondly we should recognise the crucial value of treating people equally”, he said.
The motion was passed by an overwhelming majority and the parliamentary party’s only openly gay member thanked members for their support.
“As a gay man and a member of Fine Gael it makes me tremendously proud to see party delegates not only choose to endorse this motion in support of marriage equality, but to endorse it overwhelmingly”, said Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer.
Referring to the recent ‘Pantigate’ controversy he said the debate on extending marriage rights to gay people was neither about homophobia or the institution of marriage itself, it was about equality.
“I am proud to be a gay Irish man and a member of Fine Gael, and I truly hope that the strong support for marriage equality which is in evidence at the Fine Gael ard fheis will be replicated on referendum day next year” he said. <
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