I knew I was gay from when I was 12. I also knew other things - that to speak of this would cause violence - of body and of soul.
So, I kept secrets. I kept them for a long time. Years. Decades actually. But secrets also have a way of keeping you. Living in a society, country and faith that heaped shame - both explicitly and implicitly - on LGBT people leaves a mark.
When I was 32, my friend Greg asked me if I was seeing anyone. I cried because this was the first time in my life anybody had ever asked me that question with simplicity and open heartedness. There is a public dimension to having your capacity to love acknowledged.
What is also true - deathly true - is the publicly tolerated distaste towards LGBT people. It affects our lives, both public and private. It also affects our work, our income, mental health, our locale and safety. Not just sometimes, not just occasionally, but frequently. My life would have had an extraordinarily different character had the distaste that I so correctly discerned from society, state and faith been challenged frequently. Believe me. I wish this weren't true, but it is.
We already have a spectrum of equal marriages in Ireland - civic marriages, interfaith marriages, marriages with children, marriages without children, marriages with foster children, marriages with children from previous marriages. Places and people of faith acknowledge some of these, and not others. That is, and will remain, their right. But all of these diverse marriages are already recognised by law, as they should be.
In all of the existent diverse shapes of marriages that already exist under Irish Law, children are protected. If adults, whatever their marriage status or gender, mistreat a child, the child’s rights and needs are tantamount in the eyes of the law. When a marriage involves children - and there are plenty of marriages that don’t - then those children are protected by law. We’re not voting on that tomorrow. That already is, and will remain, the law.
The public debate that has surrounded this referendum has broadcasted many voices and perspectives. Some voices campaigning for a Yes/Tá vote have ridiculed people and institutions of faith. That's shabby argumentation. I am sorry to hear of any person being ridiculed; it insults some and cheapens all. To take this point further, the campaign leading up to this referendum has allowed for hundreds of hours of talk about the causes and potential cures of homosexuality. It is difficult to underline the devastating damage that such talk has on the lives of those it affects the most.
LGBT people aren't people whose capacity for love causes damage. To discuss this causes damage. I'm glad to say that I have managed - after years - to recover most of the dignity I lost through being subjected to cure therapies, healing prayer and public exorcisms. I've heard all the arguments - delivered with friendship, faith and fury - that demean my dignity. I'm glad I have recovered most of this dignity. I am glad to be gay and would not change this even if I had a choice. On a daily basis, I hear stories from LGBT people whose sense of safety and dignity is diminishing as a result of the public debate about us. I am old enough - and I'm not old - to remember when homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland. It was in 1993. I was 18. Some public voices who today decry equal marriage decried decriminalisation in 1993. I heard them. This truth must be told.
I have many friends and former colleagues who are campaigning for a No Vote. We have been friends till now, and we will remain friends after tomorrow. I do, however, want to make a promise: I won’t get married in your church. Not only because I’m not allowed to, but because marriage is to be celebrated in a place where it is celebrated; not in a place where it's resisted, resented, or merely tolerated. Your task is to wonder whether we've shared enough faith, hope or love to get an invite. That decision remains entirely my right, and gets only my vote.
So, make Tá the Law dear friends. Make Tá the Law.