The health minister and the leader of Fianna Fáil have both backed a decision by the association for rank-and-file garda to openly support a yes vote in the marriage equality referendum.
Leo Varadkar said unions were backing a yes vote so workers would be treated equally. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said representatives of gardaí were entitled to express their views.
Mr Martin also said the no campaign’s claim that the same-sex marriage referendum is linked to the right to have a father and mother was “outrageous”.
Launching his party’s yes campaign, he said he was willing to engage in TV debates with the no side, who he argued were trying to “move society backwards”.
With just three weeks until the vote, polls show that 72% of people support same sex marriage.
Mr Martin said civil partnership was not equality and the referendum was about extending the right to marry between two adults and nothing else. He attacked the no side’s claim that children’s rights would change if the referendum passes:
“Irrespective of what happens on May 22, the legal position and rights of children in respect of their parents and families will not change in the slightest. These are comprehensively addressed in existing legislation and also in the new constitutional amendment on the rights of children.
“Personally I find it outrageous that it is being said that the right to have a mother and a father is on the ballot, or that marriage is solely defined by having children. This is fundamentally incorrect.”
Mr Martin backed a decision by the Garda Representative Association to formally back the yes side in the campaign.
He said he disagreed with Nuala O’Loan, the former police ombudsman in the North, who claimed the move could damage the force.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who revealed in January that he was gay, also supported the GRA decision. “Lots of employers and unions have called for a yes vote because they do want gay members in their workplace to be treated differently.” But he said it would be “entirely inappropriate” for the force as a whole to take sides.
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