As I write this, I’m sitting in Dublin Airport. I’m waiting to go back to London, after an incredible week in Ireland. It’s been exhausting, and frustrating at times, but I could not have handled being away during the final week. Canvassing kept me sane: it gave me the opportunity to talk to people, to listen to their concerns and, in some cases, to change their minds. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience. I’m avoiding any updates from the count, as it’s difficult enough to hold back the tears of joy.
The achievement of Marriage Equality in Ireland is a milestone that, for me and my family, has been decades coming. My involvement really started in November 2006, with the episode of Would You Believe (‘Mums the word’) that documented our family. In that time, I’ve had the privilege to talk about our family, and to describe my experiences, in dozens of interviews, events, academic research and individual conversations. At times, it has felt incredibly frustrating. As I’ve mentioned before, I felt like in every discussion about civil partnership, the Child and Family Relationships Act and Marriage Equality, opponents would talk about me (and people like me), and never with me. That was what culminated in me spending the week in Ireland; I think I would have found it a lot more difficult to sit in my new home in London, instead of being in Dublin surrounded by friends, family, and incredible people.
Bernadette, Ann, Daragh and I are a family. We are small but mightily proud of it, and it’s an incredible feeling to know you have recognised this. I know that my children (should we choose to have any) will not have to fight to have the relationship with their grandparents recognised. I know that my amazing friends now have the option to marry the person they love and build a life and family with them. We have made history, not just in Ireland, but around the world, by being the first country to introduce marriage equality through a popular vote.
I was in the bizarre situation that my relationship with Alana was able to be recognised by marriage at really any point (no matter how brief) in the eight years we’ve been together, but that my parents’ (of 35 years) was not. Today, we have corrected this inequality. That will make my own wedding day far more special, as the institution will no longer exclude the people I love the most.
We will look back at this in years to come, and I hope we’ll be able to forget the difficult parts of the campaign, and remember the amazing moments: The individuals getting involved in any sort of campaign for their first time; the mother who showed me photos of her son’s civil partnership; the man whose sister was getting married in October (and it was purely a case of whether that wedding was taking place at home, or abroad); the man who exclaimed “fuck yes I’m voting yes”.
For those who did get involved for the first time, don’t let this be the last time you get out to talk to people. There are so many ways in which we can make life for people in Ireland and around the world better, and Marriage Equality is just the start.
To round-off, I’d like to thank a long list of people (in no particular order). These are the people who have made life amazing, in a variety of ways.
Alana, who is my best friend. I think we may have run out of excuses for not planning the wedding now.
Ann and Bern, who are the greatest parents I could ever hope for.
Daragh. We are simultaneously so similar, and so different, and I love you for that.
The Mannings and Pendergrasts in Ireland and around the world.
The Farrells, who cajoled Portaloise to get out and vote yes.
My many amazing friends who never blinked twice at me having two mammies (in particular, Michael Pidgeon, who was my canvassing buddy for many days).
Gloria, Dublin’s Lesbian and Gay Choir and my many wonderful gay uncles and lesbian aunties who have been amazing inspirations as they fall in love and start their own families. I can’t name one person without needing to name you all.
Moninne Griffith (I am in awe and admiration at what you can achieve), Andrew Hyland and Grainne Healy of Marriage Equality.
Sandra Gowen, Tiernan Brady, Odhran Allen and Brian Sheehan of GLEN, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network.
Walter Jayawardene and Mark Kelly of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).
The ICCL, GLEN and Marriage Equality pooled resources to create Yes Equality, which brought us this progress.
Those people who attended the Constitutional Convention in April of 2013, where it was determined to propose this constitutional change, for listening to Claire and myself tell the story of our lives.
My current colleagues in Expensify for allowing me the flexibility in the last week, and my former colleagues in Positive Care Ireland for their support while I still lived in Ireland.
Anna Nolan for starting this journey with the documentary about our family.
Everyone who has invited me to tell my story on TV, radio, newspapers, and blog posts over the years.
All of the people who have invited me to speak at conferences and events, for academic research or other research or projects.
Una Mullally for having the strength to be open about her life in so many ways.
Rory O’Neill, for bringing the character of Panti to life in a way that inspires me so much.
All of the other inspiring young people (children of same-sex couples) who have been involved via Voices of Children, and Irish Elliot who conducted that research.
But most of all, everyone who voted #yesequality. It is exclusively through the aggregate of individual decisions, and actions, that the referendum on marriage equality passed so successfully.
ps: if I haven’t mentioned you explicitly, I love you.