On May 22nd I’ll be voting on what’s probably one of the most important – if not the most important – referendums I’ll ever vote in. I won’t be taking part for myself; I’ll be voting to ensure that people close to me and all over the country can enjoy the same right that I can: the right to be able to marry the person I love.
I’m voting Yes because my LGBT friends are just the same as me: they like the same music I do, they’re into the same movies I like, they come out on the piss and die of a hangover with me. Why would I treat them equally in everything they do, but then deny two of them who are deeply in love the right to marry? I think it makes sense – and even strengthens the institution – to allow more people access marriage, so that their relationship can be recognised as a family and be protected by the Constitution, just like the marriages of opposite-sex couples. Indeed, there is a whole host of different kinds of families in Ireland today: as well as same-sex parent families we have families with no children, families with adopted children, foster families, single-parent families. So why should we treat all those other ones with respect and equality, but then for some reason decide that same-sex couples don’t deserve to get married and be a family? I’ve seen countless, non-LGBT people hurt because of the campaign certain groups have been undertaking, because the logic of those groups also goes out to undermine all the other different kinds of families we have in Ireland today.
I have no doubt that there are a lot of people and couples out there right now who are experiencing significant emotional and mental stress as we approach the referendum day. Try to imagine being in their shoes today, waiting on a population of complete strangers to decide whether you should be allowed to get married. Should we really vote No, and decide on the lives of complete strangers? Should we make that decision and tell people, potentially for years, that they can’t get married just because we were uncomfortable with the idea? Think of the young LGBT people out there now who might be struggling to come to terms with their sexuality for whatever reason; why should we vote No and kick them when they’re already down? I want to support them and make them feel hopeful and confident that they will be accepted in an Ireland that welcomes and celebrates all people.
I’m voting Yes because I want my future children to be treated with respect and have the same opportunities I do. If I were to vote No now, and down the line my son or daughter asked me why they couldn’t marry the person they love, there’s only one truthful answer that I could give: “Because I didn’t think you deserved it.”
There is no way I could do that to my own children, so why would I do that to anyone else? Imagine, if the referendum does not pass, what it will feel like for a gay person walking down the street, wondering which of these strangers thought he or she wasn’t worthy of marriage.
It should not be up to me to make a decision on someone else’s hopes and dreams, but now that I have to do it, it’s my duty to ensure that my fellow citizens have the same opportunities for happiness and equal treatment that I do.
We’re all different, but we’re all equal. And that’s why I am voting Yes. Will you do the same?