Irish Health Minister Leo Varadkar has delivered a powerful speech on the forthcoming same-sex marriage referendum in Ireland.
Last month (February), the Irish government announced that it intends to hold a long-awaited referendum on same-sex marriage on May 22nd.
In a speech this week, Varadkar - who came out as gay earlier this year
- urged the government to recognise that same-sex relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships.
"The spirit of self is a great evil; the love of superiority is a great evil. The liberty which I look for is that which would increase the happiness of mankind," said Varadkar.
"Fifty years ago women could not serve on juries in this country and had to resign from the Civil Service when they got married, two things that seem unbelievable today but which were supported at the time by many good and honourable people who were unable to see the damage these policies were causing, or the validity of the arguments on the other side, which they often saw as radical, rather than just modern."
"This is not a Bill about ‘gay marriage’, it is about ‘equal marriage’. It is not about weakening one of the strongest institutions in society, it is about strengthening it by making it inclusive and for everyone."
He continued: “It is about removing the sense of shame, isolation and humiliation from many who feel excluded. It lets them know that Ireland is a country which believes in equality before the law for all its citizens.
“This Bill allows allow gay men and women, for the first time, to be equal citizens in their own country. No exceptions; no caveats; no conditions; just equal. This is not an act of generosity to a minority, rather it is an act of leadership by the majority.
“It is a recognition that the majority does not become superior by making another group feel inferior. It recognises that same-sex relationships are equal to opposite-sex relationships," he added.
The referendum has been supported by an array of public figures including actor Colin Farrell, who recently wrote an letter urging the government to legalise gay marriage. Read the letter in full here
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