Fine Gael's first gay TD seeks end to homosexual teachers law
THE first Fine Gael TD to come out as gay declared yesterday that he wanted to see the law discriminating against homosexual teachers abolished.
Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer (45) previously worked as a secondary school teacher in Ballincollig Community School and has kept his position open.
He said that he had never been afraid of losing his job even though many schools have the right to claim that hiring a gay, lesbian or bisexual teacher would undermine their religious ethos. "The response I got today has been overwhelming, and I'm very grateful for the support from my colleagues in the staffroom who have been texting and phoning me," he said.
But Mr Buttimer strongly backed the plan by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to eliminate the provision in the Employment Equality Act 1998 relating to gay teachers.
"To me, it doesn't make sense, it's about saying this legislation is wrong and should be changed as soon as possible," he said.
Mr Buttimer said he was not getting any payments from his old teaching job and the State no longer makes contributions to a TD's teaching pension while they are in the Dail.
Mr Buttimer spent five years in the seminary in Maynooth studying to be a priest before he decided to leave to train as a secondary teacher. He said he believed the Catholic Church was wrong in its teaching on gay people. "I really believe there is a huge number of gay people who want to be involved in the church," he said.
He said one of his reasons for coming out was a phonecall he got last year from the mother of a young man who attempted suicide after being bullied for being gay. The man was now on the road to recovery, he said.
Mr Buttimer emphasised that he would continue to work to represent "all the people".
"I just happen to be a politician who is gay. I'll still be the chair of the Oireachtas Health committee and a backbench TD in the Dail, speaking out, making my voice heard," he said.
Mr Buttimer made his announcement as he became chairman of the new Fine Gael lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group.
There are two other openly gay TDs in the Dail -- Labour Dublin North West TD John Lyon and Labour Meath East TD Dominic Hannigan. Mr Buttimer, who is in a long-term relationship, said he did not know of any others.