Paschal Donohoe: 'I'm not willing to downgrade my marriage for a civil partnership? Would you?'
The referendum on Friday, May 22 is about equality. More than that, it is about love. Eleven years ago I was lucky enough to marry the woman I love. I believe that every person should have the right to be able to marry the person they love.
Marriage equality will ensure that our gay family members, friends and colleagues are treated the same way, with the same level of dignity as the rest of us and that the same securities are afforded to them as to everyone else. Passing this referendum will ensure that gay couples receive the legal protections that flow from marriage. It will send a message to our children, and those to follow, that we really do cherish all of the children of the nation equally. It will reinforce the message that people can be who they are and love who they choose to love.
I don't believe that we can continue to exclude people from marrying on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Opponents of same-sex marriage claim that this referendum is a threat to the institution of marriage. Far from it. By extending the institution of marriage to allow more people to avail of it, we only strengthen it. By providing for more marriages everyone in society will benefit.
There is nothing to fear from allowing people to marry those who they love. There is nothing to fear from treating every committed, long-term relationship equally.
There is a lot of misinformation being circulated in an attempt to muddy the waters, stoke the fears of some and deny full marriage to others.
No other marriage will be impacted by the passing of this referendum, churches will not be obliged to perform gay marriage ceremonies and there will be no change to the adoption or guardianship of children by gay couples. It is about allowing two people of the same sex to be treated as full and equal members of society by allowing them to marry each other. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Referendum Commission, an independent body, has clearly stated that this is the case; that this referendum has nothing to do with adoption or parentage rights and that same-sex marriage does not change the status of anyone else's marriage.
Those who say that there is no difference between civil partnership and marriage are wrong. And I know this because I would not be willing to downgrade my marriage for a civil partnership. Would you?
Under the Constitution the rights of married people are protected. The rights of people in civil partnerships are not. Homes of married people are considered family homes. Those of civil partners are only deemed to be a shared home. Next of kin rights, hospital visiting access and a host of other things married people take for granted are currently denied, or not guaranteed, to civil partners. In 21st century Ireland, that is wrong.
This is not some abstract debate. These are the real lives of ordinary people we are discussing; our brothers, our sisters, our family, friends and neighbours.
This referendum means a lot to those who feel they have been living in the shadows for so long. As a husband and a father it means a lot to me too.
The gay community is proudly fighting for a better and more equal existence. Allow us to demonstrate the same pride in our nation by voting Yes on May 22.
Paschal Donohoe is Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport