Time for us to say yes to love, say yes to children, say yes to true equality
Published 18/05/2015 | 02:30
It was at John B's first gay pride event. Danny Russell, a hairdresser here in Listowel, asked to speak. Danny is not only a gay man, he's a gas man.
I interviewed him at a charity 'Strictly Come Dancing'. His wonderful dancing partner was out on her feet. Danny nearly killed her with pirouettes, across the floor slides and hitch kicks. "Is it the first time you put a woman in a sweat?" I ask. "Oops," I thought, "you've really done it now." Danny just laughed.
I know many of you are undecided. Maybe Danny might make up your mind. Danny is a panto star, the Dame of course, all for charity, and I thought he was going to do something funny and even camp-funny.
Danny spoke from the heart. "I'm strong," he said. "I see all the 'No' posters, but they don't hurt me. I don't let them hurt me. I want to marry my partner and I will be desperately disappointed if we lose. There are others though who are not so strong. It's so hard on them to walk down the street and all that negativity in the posters facing them every day. I know them. A good few gay people will completely fall apart if this is not passed."
So many stories of love.
I think of Lisa Fingleton and her partner Rena Blake, who are hoping to have their civil partnership upgraded to the status of a wedding next July. Lisa and Rena have been partners for 10 years and are so dedicated to each other, so much in love. The joy on Lisa's face when she told of me of trying on wedding dresses with her sisters will stay with me forever. She's just a girl, just like any other.
There are loving families.
I have known Áine and Honor Hurley for seven years and there are none sounder, kinder, or more loving. I was in their house lately and met the two kids conceived by one of the partners. The girls are understated in public, they might occasionally show affection by maybe a squeeze of the hand. Honor and Áine thought long and hard about having a baby.
They are teachers and the main concern was that society might treat their kids differently, but then the couple sensed a change in Ireland. And so Áine gave birth to a boy and a girl.
The process of sperm donation in Denmark was dignified, legal, moral and well-thought-out. The donor was committed to helping people - gay or heterosexual - to conceive. The donor's medical history was given to my friends. The children can decide if they want to meet their biological father when they are 21. The father can only make contact with the children's express consent.
Their little girl sang for us in her lovely girly dress. Their son is a lovely smiling blond little fella. I gave out to the girls for not teaching him how to play Gaelic football. A few days later Honor and Áine showed me a video of the young lad kicking a ball around the hall.
We had a good laugh when the girls said "Wouldn't it be wonderful if in 20 years time in Croke Park and we overhear some Kerry supporter say "Didn't the lesbians' young lad play great?"
And to think there are Irish men and women who would deny these lovely kids the right to life. Their stance is nothing short of sterilisation by religion. What would you have my friends do ? Would you ask the girls to send the babies you never wanted them to have back to Denmark?
Their right of our gay brothers and sisters to have babies will not be affected by the referendum, but the attitude of the 'No' camp towards bringing new life into the world mirrors a mindset. The vote has nothing to do with couples' right to conceive, it's about protecting their babies.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, a kindly liberal, is paradoxically the most dangerous opponent of same-sex marriage. The Archbishop says he has serious problems with voting 'No'. He has given many a way out of a moral dilemma.
The Archbishop reminds us of the man in our bar who asked the American cousin if he would prefer a fast-pulled or a slow-pulled pint of Guinness. "The slow one is far nicer," he advised. "I'll have the slow one then," replied the Yank. And said his Irish cousin: "Will you have a fast one while you're waiting?" You can't have it both ways, Archbishop. And there's no more waiting for things to settle.
I believe Catholic Ireland will vote 'Yes'. The McAleese family are an inspiration. They backed up their gay son Justin, who was true to his upbringing and himself. Sister Stan, who is a living saint, has saved more homeless people than all the 'No's' put together. Sister Stan is voting 'Yes'. She's brave and puts people before dogma. I am so proud of our West Kerry heroine.
If you're not sure, I would ask you to vote as Jesus would. It's up you to decide how he would cast his vote. Then again, your God may be different to mine - or you may not believe in any God at all. One small word binds us all, and the word is love.
Vote 'Yes' for love.