Extending civil marriage rights to same sex couples will reduce levels of self-harming among gay youngsters, the Dáil heard.
As TDs backed the marriage equality referendum set for May, Fine Gael deputy Dan Neville said the move would end the “stigmatisation” of gay people.
Mr Neville, who campaigns on mental health issues, said that gay people were seven times more likely to attempt suicide and ten times more likely to self harm than heterosexuals.
“I believe same-sex marriage will contribute significantly to the de-stigmatising of the LGBT community, although it will not eliminate it.
“LGBT teens and young adults have one of the highest rates of suicide attempts. Bullying of LGBT youth has been shown to be a contributing factor in many suicides, even if not all of the attempts have been specifically addressing sexuality or gender.
“Gay people in Ireland have a ten-fold risk of self-harming behaviours and are seven times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals, according to 2013 research by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
“The National Suicide Research Foundation in Cork did research which indicated that young people with worries about their sexual orientation and who are bullied had higher rates of self-harm,” Mr Neville said.
No TD spoke against the referendum move which is backed by all parties and most independents in the Dáil.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett accused the ‘no’ side of hypocrisy by trying to make the vote about children.
“Catholics were prevented from marrying Protestants for a long time. Was that a prohibition? Was it because of the interests of the children or the protection of the heterosexual relationship? No, it was not. It was simply pure religious bigotry, nothing more. The Queen of England is precluded from marrying a Catholic. What is that about? It is simply sectarian bigotry. Black people were prevented from marrying white people before black civil rights were established in the United States. Was that about protection of the family or children? No, it was simply racism and bigotry.
“There is a nasty subtext to the arguments being made by the opponents of marriage equality. They do not have the honesty to set out fully their prejudices and bigotry. There is a nasty subtext when they suggest that somehow marriage equality for LGBT people is going to damage children. I will not even suggest what the subtext is, but it is obvious: there is an implication that somehow LGBT people are dangerous for children. It is absolutely nasty. It represents a veiling, under an apparently progressive argument about protecting children, of a nasty prejudice,” he said.
Labour deputy John Lyons said the country had changed radically but still had further to go.
“In 1974, a gay person was seen as having a mental disorder and had to visit a doctor to check if he or she was okay. Thankfully, we no longer have to do things like that. When the gay switchboard was set up 41 years ago, it could not have its number in the telephone directory because the term “gay” was not allowed to be printed in the posts and telegraph directory.
“Ireland has moved on in the past 40 years,” the Dublin TD said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved