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Saturday 1 October 2016

Why I will be voting 'yes' for same sex marriage

Joe Barry

Published 29/04/2015 | 02:30

President Michael D Higgins
President Michael D Higgins

The referendum on May 22 will decide if people of the same sex should be allowed marry. We are also being asked to vote on whether or not we should reduce the age barrier for people standing for President from the current 35 years down to 21 years.

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Firstly, regarding the suitability of under-35s as Presidential candidates, I can only think back to when I and my friends were in our early 20s and doing the silly, loony things that most young people do.

It's all part of growing up and we learnt by our mistakes. But we still had to learn and I certainly don't want a President who has yet to discover how to conduct him or herself with dignity at all times.

We want a President with wisdom who can be relied on to never let us down.

That's why I am a huge admirer of our current President, Michael D Higgins who, after a lifetime in politics, is an ambassador of the best kind possible.

He oozes self-confidence, speaks well, is undoubtedly cultured and because of his many attributes, inspires the confidence of others.

Just imagine if some 21-year-old film or pop star, because of their fame or ability with social media, were to be elected President.

The position of President should be a reward for a lifetime of great achievement and only open to people of maturity and integrity who have earned our admiration and respect.

There is a wise and true saying that tells us: "Man does not reach the use of reason until the age of 35 and sometimes never."

It is only when we reach middle age that we realise the truth of that statement. It is a bit like parents jokingly advising teenagers to leave home and get a job while they still know everything.

As we grow older, and encounter the highs and lows of life, we may also learn that we don't actually know as much as we thought we did.

Personally I would raise the age of eligibility for President to at least 50. Hopefully other voters will agree.

The main focus of the May 22 referendum poll will, of course, be focused on the marriage equality issue. Surveys disagree on the percentage of people who are primarily attracted to their own gender or are attracted to both genders, but what is clear is that in Ireland there are tens of thousands of gay men and women who are clearly entitled to the rights enjoyed by their fellow citizens.

So what on earth is all the fuss about? We have come a long way from the bad old days when many gay people were forced to hide their natural feelings and live a life of fear and secrecy.

Many, due to peer pressure, were even forced in to conventional marriages, which inevitably led to years of misery and despair and sometimes ended in suicide. Often, because of the stigma associated with being "different", society treated such people in an appalling manner.

Anyone who tries to say that God or the Bible condemns non-heterosexual individuals is simply raving.

If you believe in a God then you will believe that he made all of us in his likeness.

If you believe in a God you will also believe that he or she is a caring compassionate being who would undoubtedly approve of two people who love each other having the right to marry and live together for the rest of their days.

Truth, generosity and compassion are often the first casualties at polling time - especially when it's a referendum that deals with issues relating to morality, freedom and the rights of the individual.

Add religious beliefs into the mix and you are guaranteed ­vicious arguments that ­inevitably end in acrimonious dispute. ­­

Just think of all the awful events in world history that were driven by religious beliefs such as the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades or the Reformation. Think also of how people were burnt at the stake for their honestly held beliefs. And then decide how you should vote.

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