Former Fianna Fáil TD Pat Carey, who last month revealed at the age of 67 that he is gay, has urged committed Catholics to support the marriage equality referendum as they have been “the torch-bearers for human rights on other issues”.
The former teacher spoke out in favour of the upcoming vote on May 22 at the launch of an independent yes campaign launch on the grounds of the Rotunda Hospital.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner after being given an emotional standing ovation from the 350-strong crowd, Mr Carey said it is essential all sides are allowed to express their views.
However, Mr Carey, whose decision to reveal his sexuality last month has been widely praised, said it is clear Ireland has changed and that “committed Catholics” like him should support moves towards equality.
“I don’t expect 100% of the population to support this measure, I live in the real world,” he said. “But some of the best support I have received has come from people who had reservations about the decriminalisation of homosexuality [in 1993] and civil partnership.
“I regard myself as quite a committed Catholic. I’d have had my issues with the Church’s positions from time to time, but they [Catholics] have been the torch-bearers for human rights on other issues.
“Not everybody wants to get married, it is a percentage of a small percentage. But it’s important that even if it’s only 1% of 1% that those people are given equality.”
Mr Carey was speaking at the launch after MC Charlie Bird singled out his story as it “brought me to tears”.
The campaign is being backed by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, gay and lesbian equality network Glen and all political parties, with Yes Equality spokesman Kieran Rose saying the referendum “offers the chance for lesbian and gay people to become equal citizens in the country they call home”.
The campaign has opened offices in Clarendon St in Dublin to house five full-time staff and five volunteers. The body, which has registered with the Standards in Public Offices Commission, currently has €60,000 in funds but believes it needs €250,000 to run an effective campaign.
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