Last Tuesday (20/02/07)and Wednesday (21/02/07) the Civil Unions Bill 2007 was debated in the Dáil. This was a Labour Party Bill, and I was proud to support it. I have been campaigning with the LGBT community for a long, long time now and I think that this Bill was an important step towards full equality.
Picture taken at the launch of the Labour Party Bill on Civil Unions which was launched in the Dail today (December 14, 2006). The following link will lead you to a statement issued by Deputy Brendan Howlin on why the Bill represents a very significant step towards the provision of full equality for gay and lesbian citizens and particular for those in same sex relationships.
I spoke and voted in favour of the Bill on Wednesday. I've attached the transcript and reprinted it here.
Sadly,frustratingly it was voted down by this government by 72 votes to 60.
Transcript from Wednesday, 21st Feb:
Shortly after I was elected to this House, the then Minister for Justice, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, introduced a Bill decriminalising homosexuality. I remember at the time being enormously impressed by her practical outlook and also by her bravery. She was one of the very few women in this House. She stepped outside the traditional mindset of her party to do something important for many of our people and also for our society. It was refreshing to see. It is dispiriting to listen to the current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who has stepped back into that murkiness of a traditional mindset. People are quite shocked and dismayed to find that he cannot do even the simple things that would be required of him in this day and age.
I congratulate Deputy Howlin on introducing this Bill. I, like other Deputies, am proud to be a member of the Labour Party tonight, but regrettably this Bill should be a matter of pride for all parties in this House. Everybody should be celebrating the passing of this Bill to ensure that people attain rights to which they are entitled. It is unbelievable that something so simple, obvious and important is being blocked in a way that is demeaning to people outside this House and people in the Gallery who are waiting to see what will happen to this Bill.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide same-sex couples with the same basic rights and duties that are available to married couples. In our society we celebrate marriage. We celebrate the idea of a stable, loving relationship that a couple set out to have in married union. Why can we not celebrate a stable, loving relationship engaged in by a same-sex couple? Is that not valid and important — two people looking after each other, two people ensuring that there is love in that relationship and that there is official recognition for that love? I know of a case where a person ended up in a psychiatric hospital and the person’s long-standing partner was not treated as a married person would have been treated. The partner was excluded from providing the normal support a couple expect from each other. This also applies where a partner of a same-sex couple is dying in hospital; God knows there is enough indignity without heaping it on.
The approach in the Bill is practical and compassionate but it is also rigorous in terms of respect. Single sex couples have an entitlement to respect. When I heard the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, speak last night it struck me forcefully that a pygmy is in charge of the Progressive Democrats. If the previous leader of the Progressive Democrats was still in her old position, I do not believe she would have let this go. Others have asked the party to stand up and stand by the Republic. I do not believe they have any conviction left in terms of their belief of what the Republic stands for and what republican values are all about. I regret that because this could have been a fine moment.
It could have been a good moment in Irish political history, as was the moment when the then Minister, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, came into this House and introduced the legislation to which I referred. She had to do that in much more difficult circumstances but she did it, and I paid tribute her for doing it at the time. We now have a Bill presented by Deputy Howlin which is robust and stands up to the tests that legal minds have applied to it. All that is failing is the political leadership that is so lacking among people who do not have the will or the commitment to support what this Republic stands for. I regret that greatly.