Minister Reilly: We need to show gay children we care
GAY children struggling to come to terms with their sexuality will suffer greatly if the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum campaign turns hostile, Children's Minister James Reilly has warned.
Dr Reilly last night said the referendum debate is being watched closely by young people who are gay, many of whom already feel "society doesn't accept them".
A yes vote will send a clear message to this "vulnerable" group that society wants to allow them to marry, according to the Fine Gael deputy leader.
"These children's lives are difficult. Because they feel different. Because they feel that society judges them. Because they feel that society doesn't fully accept them. Because they feel that society doesn't want to treat them the same as everybody else," Dr Reilly said.
"By voting yes in May, you are allowing them the possibility to one day share in the same experiences as other married couples - marrying the person they love."
The Dublin North TD made the remarks during a speech delivered at a Fine Gael LGBT event in Galway.
Several senior government figures have warned in recent days that the campaign will be defeated unless it builds momentum.
Former Fianna Fáil minister Pat Carey last week revealed that he is a gay man and said his own party's campaign lacks "energy and urgency".
Last night, Dr Reilly voiced considerable concern that a hostile referendum campaign could have a deeply negative impact on young people who are gay. He told an audience that this particular group are 14 times more likely to attempt suicide and 20 times more likely to drink alcohol frequently.
"I urge all sides in the referendum to be aware that these children are listening to their statements and their arguments. I would plead with them to be moderate in their language and sensitive and considerate in their comments," Dr Reilly said.
The minister warned that a separation must be made between the referendum and the Children and Family Relationships Bill, which is due to be discussed at Cabinet today.
"Much is being said about the impact this referendum will have on children. This referendum itself has no legal impact on children. Issues surrounding adoption will be dealt with by the Children and Family Relationships Bill regardless of the result of the referendum," Dr Reilly said.
"However, we must be aware that children are listening to the public debate. I am especially aware that children who are unsure or uncomfortable about their sexual identity are listening to the public debate," he added.