TD Jerry Buttimer did not go to the gardaí after being subjected to homophobic violence because he was not ‘out’ at the time.
The Fine Gael deputy says he wants to use memories of the attack in an empowering way by urging others on the receiving end of hate crimes to report the incident. The Cork TD said gay and lesbian people have nothing to fear from gardaí.
“I didn’t report what happened to me to the guards, because at the time I did not want people to know I was coming out of a gay pub. I wasn’t out,” he said..
“But my experience of gardaí in these matters has always been very positive. I wouldn’t think twice about going to the guards now if something like that happened to me. I know people who have had a very fair treatment from the guards; they became really involved in what had happened to them.
“That level of support from the guards is very positive.
“We need to challenge homophobia to the point where it just doesn’t matter that you are gay; that you do not have to go through the whole ‘coming out’ thing because it is just accepted as a seamless part of life.”
Mr Buttimer drew international attention with a landmark Dáil speech in which he revealed he had been the subject of violent homophobic attacks.
“I speak not just as a gay person, but as a member of society who wants to be treated equally,” he told the Dáil last week. “I have been beaten, spat on, chased, harassed, and mocked, because of who I am.
“I have spent most of my life struggling and am finally at a place in my own country, which I love, to be accepted.
“In a tolerant, respectful debate, I will not allow people who spout intolerance and hatred to go unchecked.”
Mr Buttimer became the first Fine Gael Oireachtas member to come out as gay when he told the Irish Examiner in 2012: “I am a TD who just so happens to be gay.”
He set up Fine Gael’s first gay caucus, which campaigns on equality issues within the party, and he played an influential role in getting party leadership to accept the recommendation of the constitutional convention to hold a referendum on extending marriage rights to same-sex couples early next year.
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