I am writing to you for the same reason that many other members of the LGBT community have done.
You can hazard a guess that the subject of this letter relates to the Civil Partnership Bill that I and many of the LGBT community deem insufficient.
I have been in a relationship with my partner for around five years. Like any relationship, it’s had ups and downs, but I must remind you my relationship is the same as any other; I love my partner and he loves me. In the eyes of society this is the basis for any relationship. Given my relationship is one of love and affection, am I not entitled to mark my loving relationship with marriage, if see fit? Who is any individual to deny another the right to marry who they please?
I have heard and read other letters written to you by individuals who bravely provided you with their experiences growing up in Ireland. Like many others who wrote to you, I did not find my childhood in Ireland to be an easy one. Irish society was and is to a certain extent riddled with homophobia. You cannot conceive what it is like growing up, knowing you are different and actively being treated differently. I endured homophobic comments and slurs as early as primary school. By secondary school I mastered the ability to fade into the background – to not stand out – in an effort to avoid hurtful remarks by my co-pupils. This strategy was not entirely effective, but it lessened the hurt. I have not shared these experiences with anyone, not even my partner. I hate thinking on these years of my life; I strive to block them out. When I think of my life in the last fifteen years, it began the day I moved to Dublin and commenced third-level education. My first day in college marked the first time in years I could be myself. Minister, I am twenty six years old. Can you imagine how it feels to suppress so many years of my existence? You will never know the feeling of torment that I and so many others of the LGBT community faced in the early, developmental stages of our lives.
I initially welcomed the Civil Partnership Bill, but on reading around the subject matter of same sex union, I do not think your proposal goes far enough. By introducing a two-tiered form of union within Ireland, you consciously allow law – and therefore society – to apply a separate treatment of the LGBT community. In the eyes of your Civil Union Bill, you define me as different since I express feelings of sexual attraction and affection towards the same sex. This is no basis for you to treat me differently. Why may I not have my relationship recognised in the same manner as my heterosexual brethren? Your Bill discriminates against me. An acknowledgement that Irish society is not ready for same sex union allows for the perpetuated existence of a society that discriminates. As Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform you are responsible for upholding, amending and creating law as you, society and your government see fit. Sections of society today view Ireland as ready for same-sex marriage. This was demonstrated by the attendance of 5,000 or so people at a rally Sunday, 9th August 2009. Society is telling you it is ready for change. Law can act as a catalyst just as it did with the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the introduction of divorce to the Republic of Ireland. The potential for change lies in your very hands.
As I earlier said, a few months ago I supported your Civil Partnership Bill. I believed your Bill was a step in the right direction. I viewed it as the first step towards eventual Civil Marriage. This Bill marked a progressive Ireland that was changing for the better. The “stepping stone approach” as it has come to be referred to was diplomatic insofar that it did not diminish marriage as a religious institution. Nor did the Civil Union Bill cause much offence to members of Irish society who have homophobic tendencies. I believed your Bill to be a “happy medium” for all parties involved. The change in my opinion came after a heated discussion with my partner. My partner argues that no religious group may lay claim to the institution of marriage since marriage now exists in the form of civil registration. The concept of marriage has evolved. My partner also questions the right of any stakeholder to block the entitlements of any other Irish citizen. I thought on this and I realised my partner is correct. I now believe that no religious, homophobic, traditionalist/conservative, narrow-minded member of society has the right to deny me or anyone else the right to marry who I so desire. I am a law abiding, Irish, tax paying citizen. In certain regards, I am a model citizen. I am entitled to be treated as equal in the eyes of this country’s law. I am entitled to the exact same treatment as my heterosexual counterparts. In this debate, there are no grey areas; there are only rights and wrongs. Your Civil Partnership Bill is wrong
Minister, I respectfully ask you to do no more than give me my entitlement to marry whom I please.