A group which says people can change their sexuality through counselling and “conversion therapy” is set to hold a public meeting on the same-sex marriage referendum today, after claiming the national debate is mired in political “bias”.
Covenant Christian Fellowship church member Bill Hamilton said his “Yes or No, a faith perspective on issues concerning same-sex marriage” will be held to give full information to the public on how the “gay lifestyle” can be avoided.
The event was initially planned for the Pillo Hotel in Galway City before the facility cancelled the booking yesterday after being informed of potential protests due to the subject matter involved. However, Mr Hamilton — who describes himself as a Christian evangelist — said he is still planning on holding the question and answer session today once he finds a suitable location to hold the event.
The public meeting is due to hear from Mike Davidson, a director of the UK-based Core Issues Trust which claims counseling can change a person’s sexuality and that being gay is a choice.
Mr Davidson — who said he used to have unwanted feelings towards men but is now married with children — told the Irish Examiner he does not believe same sex marriage is “good for gays or anybody else” and that “politicians are using the position to gain political power”.
He said he wants to put forward a “reasoned” response to the “imposition of social engineering” through the referendum.
However, Equality Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said while all views have a right to be heard “I believe most people will see through the argument”. News of the controversial event came as a raft of yes and no campaign launches and press briefings took place yesterday as the May 22 referendum draws closer.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Children’s Minister Dr James Reilly met with young gay and lesbian people at the Belong youth group in Dublin city centre, during which one member — Alison Kershaw— tearfully called for a yes vote in a comment Mr Kenny described as “powerful” and which was applauded by Dr Reilly.
Tánaiste Joan Burton also called for the country to be “on the right side of history” at a Labour yes equality event in Galway City.
With the no vote, the Iona Institute launching a video setting out its views and Independent senator Jim Walsh speaking in favour of a new group which has concerns over a lack of real debate.
Meanwhile, a presenter of RTÉ Pulse digital station LGBT programme, The Cosmo, has stood down from the role after claiming he has been put under pressure by management to ensure balance ahead of the referendum. Scott de Buitléir, who has presented the show as an unpaid volunteer since 2009, said in his personal blog: “I couldn’t bring myself to allow someone on an LGBT radio show saying why we shouldn’t be equal”.
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