On Valentine’s Day, treatment UCD’s LGBT society took part in a protest outside government buildings on Kildare Street. Around thirty UCD LGBT members, shop and one member of Trinity LGBT, sickness protested on the issue of civil partnership for same-sex couples in Ireland. The protest was also attended by openly gay members of the Oireachtas Senator Katherine Zappone, Senator David Norris and John Lyons TD.
A legal audit of civil partnership that has taken place over the last few months has found that 169 rights afforded to married couples will not be afforded to same-sex civil partners. Significant among these is the right to adopt children. As it stands, single gay people can adopt, but civil partners cannot.
“We went to the protest to show support for the protest and to get a stronger voice heard,” says Michelle Crean, auditor of UCD’s LGBT society. “We wanted to remind the government that we are still here, and also to raise awareness of the March for Marriage.” The March for Marriage is an annual march in support of gay marriage that UCD’s LGBT has regularly taken part in. It is part of an ongoing awareness campaign by Noise LGBT, a national group supporting the rights of same-sex couples.
There is a growing confidence among the LGBT community that full rights for same-sex couples will soon be on the table. A recently published national poll shows that 76% of Irish people are in favour of marriage for same-sex couples. In UCD in particular, Crean notes an increasingly positive reception of homosexuality amongst students of our generation. “I think in our generation things have definitely improved. There is still a minority of people out there who are close-minded, but when most people meet gay people they realise that there really is no difference.”
Some UCD students echoed a similar sentiment. 2nd Year John Finlay remarked that, “I’ve never encountered any homophobia in my time in UCD, or amongst anyone of my generation.” “I don’t think homophobia is a big problem anymore,” noted Alicia Morrison, currently a student of Law and Philosophy. Asked if she would raise the issue of gay marriage with her local TDs, Alicia replied: “I don’t know if I would go to my TD about it…see that’s a question of apathy. I think maybe you have to have a personal experience before you really start to get involved in something.”
The issue of lobbying is a significant one. Michelle Crean believes that “if people were to simply go to their TDs and tell them that they care about gay rights, then this issue could get closer to being resolved.”
There are still obstacles to progress for gay rights. Alongside issues of apathy and lack of awareness, there is the potential problem that the nation will believe that the LGBT community has made sufficient progress as it is. “Civil partnership is a step in the right direction, but it would be a terrible shame if the government thought that it is enough. It is completely different to marriage.” says Crean.
Though last week’s protest was considered a success by those who attended it, it was only a forerunner to the much larger March for Marriage that will be held on August 12th of this year. According to Crean, “there is still work to be done.”