I believe my son was born gay - and God cherishes him equally
Published 20/05/2015 | 02:30
When my son Andrew was born 37 years ago, I thanked Jesus for such a perfect and beautiful baby, born in the image and likeness of God, and from our blessed union. But Andrew was an especially beautiful baby and I was just so thankful for him.
And it's because of him that I got involved in the marriage equality campaign. I'm not one for campaigning and if I didn't have a gay son, I'm not sure I would have got involved.
Now I'll be devastated if the referendum doesn't pass, not just for Andrew, but for all the children growing up gay in Ireland.
I never go against God or against my religion but I don't think the Church, particularly the hierarchy, is saying the right thing on this issue.
The Pope says one thing, that we should welcome gay people into the Church, but our bishops say another thing and what they're saying isn't being welcoming of gay people.
I believe I got a gay baby - you don't get a gay 15-year-old - and I believe babies are born in the image and likeness of God. So how can we not cherish gay people equally?
Organisations like Barnardos and the ISPCC, who are the children's rights experts and who only want what's right for children, are asking for a Yes vote. They say that the passing of the referendum will help protect children and I believe them. The bishops need to listen to them.
Fr Peter McVerry, who I think is a saint, is voting Yes because he is a man of God. He's been in my church twice and I admire him. He's not afraid to speak out and calls out ministers and such people if it's for the greater good and that's why he's voting Yes, because it's for the greater good.
I don't agree with the groups calling for a No vote as I think it will harm children. Those who want a No vote tell me that mothers and fathers matter - but we live in a world now where a lot of children spend a lot of time in creches. What children need is love, stability and security and that's what more of them will have if this referendum passes.
As far as I can see, the part of the Church that is opposed to marriage equality is the hierarchy, while many of the priests and lay Catholics support it. If the Pope wants people to join the Church, he and the bishops should be genuinely welcoming of gay people and their families.
Given that 10pc of the population is gay, the people of Ireland have a responsibility to come out en masse to support the rights of their sons and daughters, their grandchildren, their friends and members of their community.
My love for our son Andrew, the youngest of our three children, hasn't changed since the day he was born - he was perfect and beautiful then and he still is.
He's a really nice human being, who is loved by me and his father, by his brother and sister and especially by his nieces and nephews and godchildren.
I was delighted with my baby when he was born and to say that 37 years later I wouldn't cherish him equally is something I can't accept.
Why should I not want my child to be equal to my other children or other people's children?
I don't think God would be happy with me if I didn't cherish my child as equal.
Eithna Hyland is a grandmother and a mother of three