Why voting yes matters for the future of Ireland

Adrian McCarthy explains why he hopes for an equal future

Imagine that you are on a bus. It is an average, uneventful afternoon and you’re on the way home from work or college. You look out the window, watching the familiar surroundings pass you by as you sit squeezed into the narrow seats. You decide to take out your phone to alleviate the monotony of the journey so you open your newsfeed and scroll through the day’s happenings and viral videos. Out of nowhere you see something that seizes your attention completely. It is an article. You read the article in detail, paying attention to every single statement and quote, feeling a sharp painful sting in your chest after each one. By the time you’ve gotten to the end of the article, the sharp painful stings have swelled into a crushing blow, making you feel like your heart might just cave in on itself at any moment. You want to scream; you want to shout; you want to find a way to stop this awful pain that’s enveloped you countless times before, over bigger and smaller things alike, but you just can’t. All you can do is sit there on the cramped, warm bus gazing out the window with a glazed look in your eyes, timidly biting your nails.

Now, imagine this isn’t you anymore and that this is me. And the reason I’m feeling this tremendous pain is because of reading an article entitled No campaign says ‘Yes’ victory could see babies left ‘deliberately motherless’  by which I’ve essentially been told that, as a gay man, I will be a threat to the future of children and families if I am allowed marry my boyfriend. Not just that, but that there is a fundamental difference between me and the other people who were on the bus because I’m not able to biologically produce a child in my relationship.

Taking this article on its own, it might not seem like much. But when you’ve read and heard these kinds of arguments for months like I have, telling you that you’re utterly different and a threat to children; and when you’ve grown up in a society that has seen LGBT people bullied, harassed, fired and assaulted, over the years it starts to take its toll on you. That one article becomes something bigger; it evokes that pain that lies deep within you because somewhere, someone along the line, either directly to your face or indirectly in an article or comment, has called you a faggot or sick or abnormal because of something you have no control over; because of who I am and who your brother, your neighbour, your best friend and your daughter are, and who we fall in love with.

This referendum is about equality. The barrier that differentiates and excludes ‘us’ from ‘them’ will take a huge knock if a yes vote is passed on May 22nd. This referendum is not about taking away the rights of families. On the contrary, it is about extending these rights to even more people, affording the diverse range of families that already exist in Ireland the protection they deserve under the law through civil marriage.

I will always carry on some level that sting of inequality; knowing that there were and will sadly always be people who are vehemently opposed to me expressing my love for Jerome at the highest level.

But we can change that. Do we want to be remembered as the generation who stood up against injustice, against those who believe it is okay to demean others because they don’t fit their perception of ‘normality’? This referendum is for all of those who have been put down because they are different; because they don’t fit the narrow view of what normal is. A yes vote will ultimately make Ireland a fairer and more equal place for every one of us. Ireland’s history is a rich and colourful tapestry, yet it is stained by events that stemmed from hatred and prejudice. Stand up and say no more; ensure that no child who is born in Ireland in 2015 and falls in love with the same gender when they grow up will have to carry the pain of discrimination like I and countless others before me have.

A yes vote will be a step towards ensuring that the future generations of Ireland will grow up in a fairer more accepting society; not one that jeopardises their future. Because someday I hope to live in a country where no one who is on their way home, sitting on the bus, happens to read an article that diminishes them because of who they are. This is why I believe you should Vote Yes on May 22nd.