Marriage equality a human rights issue, according to TDs

Marriage equality is an issue “not for the gay community alone”, according to Labour Party TD, Aodhán Ó’Riordáin.

Speaking at a marriage equality talk organised by DCU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Ally (LGBTA) society, Ó’Riordáin said as it is a human rights issue, the straight community should be just as vocal about it as the gay community.

Ó’Riordáin was accompanied by fellow Labour TD, John Lyons and Ronan Farren of Marriage Equality. All three spoke passionately on the need for equal marriage rights in Irish society and agreed the best way to achieve these was through small steps.

Ó’Riordáin said we need to “box clever” and get adoption rights sorted before a referendum is held, so there is “as small a leap as possible” to marriage. Describing the shift in Irish attitudes towards gay people, he said: “we live in a much more tolerant society now than when I grew up”.

Ronan Farren has been working with Marriage Equality ahead of the Constitutional Convention (a meeting to discuss amendments to the Irish Constitution) in December, he detailed how the process will work. Marriage Equality will be one of several groups making presentations when the issue is discussed during the Convention’s second phase. Recommendations of the Convention will be sent to the Oireachtas for consideration.

Farren said granting same-sex marriage rights would be “positive from a political point of view” for a government currently tackling difficult economic conditions. All political parties except Fine Gael are in favour of granting same-sex marriage rights, as are over 70% of the Irish public, according to a Red C poll in the Sunday Times in 2011.

Farren urged students to “actively pester” legislators to ensure further progress is made. “If you do support this issue you almost have a duty to contact local representatives”, he said.

Lyons gave an insight into his personal experience of attending college as a young gay man. “When I was 17 and 18 my life was about pretending…the world was not comfortable with me being comfortable with my sexuality.”

Lyons also feels equal marriage rights should be achieved with small steps, like “a surgical operation, rather than a butcher approach”. While “life has changed in Ireland in dramatic ways”, failing to pass a referendum on equal marriage “could send us back to a time where we feel not human”, he said.

Lyons urged those present to actively push for change, he said: “we should never stand for any society that leaves a certain sector of society outside the door.” Quoting writer Ernest Gaines he questioned: “why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable with seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?”

The event took place to mark DCU Equality Week, which ran on campus from November 12th to 16th.

Sarah Bermingham

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