Launch of north tipperary for equality
The newly formed 'North Tipperary for Equality' group will be holding their launch night this Friday night, April 17th, at Roscrea Rugby Club from 8pm to 9pm.
The group is part of the Yes Equality group and will be mobilising the Yes vote for the upcoming marriage equality referendum. The group has had some extensive national exposure due to an emotive photographic campaign on social media. The campaign has included pictures of parents, children, friends and family members of gay people in the North Tipperary community; the campaign has been seen by over 150,000 people to date and has taken to many people’s hearts.
The photo campaign's importance is two-fold. Firstly, it gets the message out there that the referendum is approaching. But, most importantly, it gives the personal reason for individuals voting Yes, be it a mother wanting her daughters to find happiness regardless of who they fall in love with, or a father outlining that he does not want to put a boundary on the love of anyone else’s child.
Campaign chairman Damien McKelvey's contribution was to highlight that there are gay men and women in your towns and villages all over the county and that the outcome of this referendum will effect people in your community, people you know. It’s vital these personal stories are seen and heard both on and off Facebook.
Damien's parents, Lou and Mary McKelvey, spoke from the heart with: “We have eight children; five sons and three daughters. In our house everyone is equal; however one of our sons is currently treated differently under Irish law. We are voting Yes so that all our children are equa under the constitution.”
These words impacted more than 20,000 people who clicked the strong image and read the words while Joe Moloughney stated the below to go with his powerful image:
“If we could send our kids a wish, then our wish would be:
May a life of love and happiness lay in front of thee.”
The campaign now enters the final six weeks and the group intends to canvass in the coming week.
Damien highlighted what this campaign means to him: “My interest in marriage equality stems from my own equality journey. This effects my partner and I directly, but in turn this affects my parents, my five brothers, my three sisters, my nieces nephews, my grandmother and my extended family.
“Currently I am not afforded the same legal rights under the Constitution as my siblings. This is unfair to my parents, who see one of their sons treated differently to his four brothers and three sisters.
“As a person who loves my home town of Roscrea, and Ireland, as a person who is respected in the community and who has been and is involved at a community level, I feel that I am at the moment, under Irish law, somewhat lesser than the rest of my family. Over the years, for reasons any gay person reading this and their families will understand, I have developed a thick skin, to the point where I had almost accepted that the State sees me as a lesser individual.
“When however the debate on this referendum took off, I began to examine what this referendum meant to me personally, and also to my family. I then realised that this way of thinking is not right. Why should I, as an active member of society, accept the fact that I am unequal? A Yes vote to me would mean that I can be part of the institution of marriage, the same way my parents are and as my brothers and sisters are and will be. A Yes vote will mean that I can have what my parents had. I think that I, and all my brothers and sisters, want and deserve that.”
Group Secretary Stephen Glynn, also spoke of how this referendum is a benchmark in Irish society, that change needs to happen for equality to be achieved: “We all have a major part to play in this change. A Yes vote may seem like something small to you or I but in reality, each and every Yes vote on May 22nd is historic, it is an acceptance of everyone in society and it removes one more shackle of inequality.”
Campaign Manager and Photographer Karen Eastwood, who came up with the photo campaign, has said her desire is to break down the barriers that exist. Karen, who is engaged to marry Stephen, the group secretary, has expressed her hope that by the time they marry next year, they may do so in a society where their sexual orientation does not dictate their status.
Damien highlights different levels of inequality and there are various other areas of inequality that effect same sex couples and/or gay people, for example in areas of employment. He has numerous gay friends who hide the fact that they are gay in work for fear of lack of promotion, etc. In his opinion, a Yes vote in this marriage equality referendum will be the start of a shift in mindset that will normalise same-sex marriages and in turn will reduce or remedy the other areas of inequality.
And this is a major issue in our society; why should any individual feel the need to hide who they are for fear of judgement?
The group use Facebook and email to get the message across. Their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/northtipperaryforequality, has been seen by nearly a quarter of a million people while their email list is growing each day.
The group hopes as many people as possible attend the launch night this Friday and will highlight what will be coming up in the coming weeks.