Letter to Minister Ahern

August 10, 2009

Dear Minister

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.

Yours,

Stephen T

Advertisements

Letter to Brenda Power

August 10, 2009

Dear Brenda

 

I am sure this is one of many responses you received in relation to your comments on Pride, Rory O’Neill/Miss Panti and the upcoming Civil Partnership Bill.

 

Would you believe I heard nothing of your articles until I attended the rally for Civil Marriage on Sunday 9th August? You can guess your name was not mentioned in a favourable tone. Today, I took some time at my employer’s expense to read both your articles on the matter. I read the first, “You can’t trample over the wedding cake and eat it”. I was a little incensed by its content. Your second article “I must not offend gay people …” calmed me and allowed me understand your viewpoint. I even agree with some of it.

 

Your first publication on the matter of same sex marriage clearly provoked a massive response from the Irish LGBT(Q) community. You refer to the content of these responses as “points of view”. The claim that I, Stephen of Irish nationality am entitled to marry my partner of five years is not a point of view. It is fact. I am entitled to marry whom I see fit and I (and countless others) will work hard until I can. Who are you and any other member of Irish society to deny me my right?

 

Initially, I intended to analyse the content of your article and address each of your points. However, I doubt there is little I could say that you have not already heard at this stage. You defend the content of your articles with your entitlement to an opinion. Yes, you are more than entitled to an opinion. Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right. Are we not lucky to live in such a society that allows us think and express what we think and in your case make a living from it?

 

History has been wrought with points of views that have inevitably moulded modern society. It was once a point of view that black people could be considered equal to their white counterparts. It was once a point of view that women should receive the vote. These points of view went against the grain; they were unconventional. Luckily, convention is something that evolves. Change to legislation can act as a catalyst for change to convention.

 

My views on the Civil Partnership Bill have evolved in the last few months. I initially approved of it because I thought it a “happy medium”. I viewed it as a means of almost getting what the LGBT community want without stepping on the toes of other societal stakeholders. I am not a practising Catholic, but I respect Catholic viewpoints. As a fellow Irish citizen, I respect your say on the matter, but I also think some of your views were biased and ill-informed. We agree we are both entitled to our own opinion.

 

As a mother – of girls or boys I do not know – I guess you would fight for what is right for your children. Twenty six years ago, my mother probably thought it unlikely – and wished against – her son fighting for same-sex marriage. In the future, there is a chance your children or your grandchildren might one day find themselves attracted to the same sex. If this ever comes about, I guarantee your views on the gay community and same sex union will change just as my mother’s and countless other Irish mothers’ were forced to.

 

I wish you well in your career and family,

 

Stephen

 

This letter was sent in response to Brenda Power’s articles 5th July 2009 and 12th July 2009.