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Gay people are entitled to dignity and equality

Sir, Patrick O'Neill (The Kerryman, letters August 8) seems to defend a narrow definition of marriage on three grounds.

First, the Constitution promotes the family; second, the traditional family unit has been with us since time immemorial; and third, he contends that children are so much better off in traditional families that to change marriage would be to selfishly reduce the quality of life of children who will be raised by gay couples.

In my view traditional marriage is discriminatory and I think if I was going to use any document to defend it I too would probably wield our Constitution - a Constitution our Government is keen to drag into the 21st Century. This is the Constitution that did not protect thousands of our poorer children being locked up and used as slaves. This Constitution did not protect singe-mothers being enslaved and their children sold. This Constitution did not protect women from being raped by their husbands. And it did not protect gay people from legal discrimination. That's our Constitution. A document that now needs amending just so the State will be empowered and obliged to look after children properly.

As for history? Marriage and the family have been evolving since our species left the caves. The idea of coequal parents, bonded for life, as father and mother, is as recent as it is rare. Even our understanding of what a child is, continues to develop. I don't mean we view children differently today than we did a century ago but, every decade, our attitudes and understanding changes. Some cultures once discarded their infirm children. Other cultures sent 11-year-olds to the gallows. We allowed teachers to beat children. There are even some people who still think teachers should be allowed beat children with sticks.

But times do change and, for children, it is much better now than it ever has been in the past.

As for children doing better with a father and a mother? Well, I have yet to see any credible evidence which shows that children with mixed-gender parents do any better than children with same-gender parents. And be assured, people who campaign against equality are spending huge amounts of resources looking for any evidence that would allow them to say children will suffer if equality and respect become the norm.

I see no rational grounds for continuing to treat gay people as second class citizens. Quite the opposite in fact. Gay couples up and down the country have children, but exist in a legal limbo as our laws continue to treat them as less than other humans. Marriage is the only institution that can regularise these unions and give legal protection to their children.

Yes, the Catholic Church is against recognising the equality of gay people. But this is not about the Catholic Church; this is about respecting all of our citizens and treating them as equals. Science cannot distinguish between the children of gay couples and the children of straight couples. So will we choose to continue to discriminate or will we say to all of our children that, regardless of their sexuality, regardless of the sexuality of their parents or parent, they are all entitled to respect, dignity and equality? I know which Ireland I would prefer to live in. Sincerely, Paul Bowler, Lixnaw.