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Thank you #marref

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.

Marriage Equality in Ireland: Priceless

Thanks to Patrick Haugseng for the image

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.
Absent friends.

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.

Thank you.

ps: if I haven’t mentioned you explicitly, I love you.

I was recently asked to write a piece for the Dublin Gazette about why you should chose to vote Yes on the Marriage Equality referendum in Ireland on May 22nd. The original piece is available here, but I wanted to record it on my own site for posterity.

Hello, my name is Conor Pendergrast, and my brother Daragh and I are the children of two wonderful women, Ann and Bernadette.

As a child, I spent my early years in London. I was fortunate to have a diverse group of friends and to meet people from every walk of life. Our neighbours were also a family headed by two mums, and we were far from the only similar families in the city. Even that long ago, there were parenting groups for lesbian and gay people, which my parents attended. Moving back to Ireland (where Bern was born and raised) was a bit of a change; whereas once my brother’s skin colour meant little (his sperm donor was a British Indian man, whereas mine was a white British man!), now he was the only person who wasn’t white in the school. Our English accents also made us stick out a mile. In comparison with those barriers we faced, the fact that our parents are two women was pretty insignificant to onlookers! Our classmates didn’t think us having two mums was weird, in fact they thought it was really cool!

Overall, my family is similar to a lot of other families, and yet there are those who think that my mums shouldn’t have the option to marry. Luckily, we’ve seen incredible progress over the last 20 years in rights for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. The decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1990′s meant that, from one perspective, their love was no longer illegal. Equality legislation was introduced which means that discrimination based on sexuality is no longer tolerated (in most, but sadly not all, cases). Civil Partnership lead to the option for people in same-sex couples to have their relationships recognised to a degree. This year, the Child and Family Relationships Act finally granted the option for me to have a legal relationship with both of my parents. And then, there were the lesser-known pieces of legislation that have lead to much greater support and recognition of families like mine.

And yet, inequality still exists.

My mums have, as you can see, raised a family despite the lack of marriage equality. It is a great falsehood to make the discussion on this referendum about the families that same-sex couples will raise: there have, and will continue to be, children like me raised in families headed by lesbian, gay and bisexual people. To vote no on that basis is to ignore the reality: we’re already living in communities around Ireland.

Sadly, those campaigning in opposition to the referendum have shown no interest in listening to me and my brother’s perspectives, and have effectively ignored us and families like us for years, only to rise up now and scream “Won’t someone think of the children?”.

I’m getting to the stage of my life where a number of my friends are starting to marry. I myself am engaged to a wonderful woman, with whom so far I have spent eight happy years, and with whom I intend to spend my life. The idea of my parents not having the option to marry each other, after being together for over thirty years, saddens me. The idea that my wonderful lesbian, gay and bisexual friends can’t marry the people they love, feels deeply wrong. I can’t help but wonder what it is that makes my love for Alana legitimate and deserving of recognition by society, but Ann and Bern’s love for each other undeserving?

In the end, the referendum on marriage equality is not about lofty hypothetical situations or philosophical debates, it’s not about whether same-sex couples will raise families (they have for decades, and will continue to do so), it’s not about whether you’re annoyed by the current government, it’s not about where you’re from.

The referendum on marriage equality simply comes down to one question: will we decide to treat our people equally, or not? Should your sons and daughters, your parents, your aunts and uncles, your cousins, your friends, your neighbours, your teachers, your nurses, and everyone else you know who happens to be lesbian, gay or bisexual, be able to marry the person they love?

The outcome of the referendum will demonstrate this: are we all equal, or are we not?

Last Tuesday 5th May I took part in a discussion on Matt Cooper’s The Last Word on Today FM, which focused on the Marriage Equality referendum that’s taking place in Ireland very soon. Both I and Katie from askthebigot.com were interviewed, talking about our experiences. You can scroll to about 36 minutes into this clip to have a listen to the start of the conversation and continues on in to the third part of the recording.

One really key note: as I try to point during the discussion, the Marriage Equality referendum in Ireland really has nothing to do with children in families headed by same-sex couples. That’s coming from me, as a child of two wonderful women who have been today for over three decades.

According to the Referendum Commission, it is proposed to add the following to Article 41 of the Constitution:

Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.

And that is it.

This is not to do with me, or children of same-sex couples. We’re being used as red-herrings by the no side to mislead you away from the core decision, which is simply one of whether we treat people equally with respect to marriage or not.

Have more questions? Ask me in a comment here. Want to help? Donate right now. Stop reading, start donating.

28: Days in San Francisco
7: Days in Ironwood, Michigan
5: Free Lunch Wednesdays
13: Burritos
318,600: Steps
6: States (Texas, California, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota)
2,862: Email conversations in my work email account
3: Shots of tequila
8: Number of seats on the teeny tiny airplane
4: Margaritas
1: Baseball game (wtf?)
1: Old Friend
1: Incredibly BIG dog
1: Great company to work in

Now, onward to Portugal! But before that…

Go give

So, the big news in the Farrell-Pendergrast household is that I resigned from Positive Care Ireland and Resiflex a few weeks ago. I’ve been keeping it quiet until we had some more details nailed-down, but it’s all set now and my last day is Friday August 8th.

The primary motivation for this is that I’ve been working in the same place, with the same wonderful people, for more or less 7 years now and decided it was time to get out and about a little bit and see a little more of the world.

I was really pleased to be offered a position as a ‘salesperson extraordinaire’ (their words!) with Expensify a few weeks ago, which I happily accepted. My start date is 11th August. I’ve been using Expensify for a little over two years, to help to manage my company expenses in PCI and Resiflex, and I really look forward to the opportunity to work with them (they’ve been absolutely lovely so far).

My first month with Expensify will be based in the US of A, mostly in San Francisco. If that’s where you are, email me and we’ll grab a drink some time. My second month with Expensify will be spent in Portugal, which I’m really looking forward to (same offer of emailing me if that’s where you are). I spent two weeks there about 7 years ago and really enjoyed it. After that, I’m back to London full-time.

It’s been an incredible adventure over the last 7 years, and huge thanks to everyone in Positive Care Ireland and Resiflex for making it so great.


Hey there,
I thought you might like to see that I’m still doing interviews and talking about same-sex parenting, even while living over in sunny London! I’ve had quite a few interviews for different shows and projects recently, some of which are listed on this site, including some here in the UK.

This weekend, TodayFM are playing four shows on the topic of the modern family. Our family was interviewed for episode one, which concentrates on same-sex parenting. Have a listen this Friday 18th at 10:30am. Enter your email address in the box above to get a reminder about this Friday’s show, or anything else that I’m doing. Can’t listen live? They’ll have a recording afterwards, but it’s not the same obviously :)

Here’s the full details from TodayFM:

The idea of the traditional Irish family is shifting rapidly and this Easter Weekend we take a look at the changing face of modern families.

From gay parents to families with disabilities, immigrants and one-parent families; we’ll hear about the challenges of raising a family in Ireland.

Don’t miss the first part of this four piece documentary which will examine same-sex parenting and how it has evolved over a generation.

  • Modern Family Ep1: Same-sex parents Friday 18th of April 10.30am
  • Modern Family Ep2: Families with disabilities Saturday 19th of April 10.30am
  • Modern Family Ep3: Immigrant families 20th of April 9.30am
  • Modern Family Ep4: One-parent families Sunday 21st of April 10.30am

More than two decades ago, when Bernadette and Ann decided to start a family as a lesbian couple, they were ahead of their time. Together they raised their two sons, Conor and Daragh in a society where they sometimes felt isolated as same-sex parents.

Clare and Aishling met when they were in school. When Clare hit her 30s the pair started talking about having children. They decided to use donor sperm for artificial insemination and they now have a son, Darragh.

Glenn and Adriano became the first gay couple in the state to have their civil partnership formally recognised back in January 2011. Glenn has a nine year-old daughter and shares parenting duties with her mother.

TL;DR version:

It’s time for the Big Gay Sing Dublin.


It’s been far too long since I wrote here, so apologies for that. In the meantime, I’ve moved to London and am working on something awesome to change social care.

Still, there’s been something else awesome that has been happening over the past weeks. I’ve been talking about what it’s like to grow up with same-sex parents for the last seven and a half years, and it that period of time any publicity has followed a pretty typical cycle, that would last a week, or two at most.

With that being said, unless you were living under a rock you can’t really have missed what’s been going on in Ireland around the way Rory aka Panti and RTÉ (the national broadcaster) were threatened with legal action by the Iona Institute and friends. The outcome of that was an extraordinary €83,000 settlement out of court by RTÉ and, it would seem, without much thought out in to the process.

Actually, the other, primary outcome of this was a Streisand effect-style reaction which had what’s felt like the entire county still talking about the censorship, and the wider issue of homophobia and how LGBT people are treated in Irish society. With some amazing speeches (Panti’s at the Abbey and David Norris’ in the Séanad come to mind), a lot of attention (a great right-up from today’s Irish Examiner by Gerard Howlin) but the quality stuff mostly it’s been online and away from the mainstream media.

The one thing that has seriously surprised me this time is that the train just keeps on rolling. I think we’re at the tipping point of something amazing. People are seriously starting to pay attention to how horrific it can be to be a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person in Ireland. As my sister almost-in-law said, “It is a bit cool watching history happen though isn’t it?”.

Yep, it is. There’s one thing cooler, and that’s making history. I’ve been helping out a little bit in organising Various Voices Dublin 2014, which is bringing 3000 LGBT (and straight, I’m sure) people from dozens of countries to Ireland in June for a choral festival.

We feel that marriage equality will be one of the defining moments of this decade for civil rights in Ireland.

If you feel like we do, then don’t get angry, get even. The Iona Institute got €83k by threatening RTÉ and Panti for pointing out the obvious.

Let’s get even by raising more than this to campaign for the marriage equality referendum next year.

It’s time for the Big Gay Sing Dublin.

Edit: One more thing. Matt Cooper refused to read out homophobic comments that had been submitted by listeners on his show today. More of this please, it’s amazing how destructive those comments can be. A short time ago, after an interview in which I participated, the presenter read out a comment that implied I was a social experiment. Which wasn’t really nice. So, thanks Matt!

Art is for everyone, so open it up. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is putting all of its one million pieces online, in glorious high-resolution images. Starting now with 125,000 images and adding 40,000 more every year, these images are (amazingly) available for download and use however you want. You can create your own collection of images (say, paintings by left-hand German artists living between 1732 and 1801) and then share those via Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. What an amazing idea. The possibilities are pretty cool. Imagine remixing a Vermeer like Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid to give it a contemporary twist by having her Snapchatting a piece of paper or something. Imagine the image hacking you could do with this. Lovely. Brings me back to reading The Pirate’s Dilemma, a great book about remix culture.
They are asking that the images not be used for commercial gain, with higher-quality (paid, presumably) images available for that purpose. They also have an API available for developers to play with. There are some great examples of uses of the paintings here.
I’d love to see this happening in other galleries and museums, as well as modern art galleries.

Update: You can watch our speeches on YouTube. Thanks for your lovely support.
Here’s my speech to the Constitutional Convention on 13th April 2013:

My name is Conor Pendergrast. I’d like to talk to you briefly about my family. There’s me, my brother Daragh and our two mums Ann and Bernadette.
My brother and I were both born in London. In 1995, our family moved to Ireland, where we lived in Co. Kildare. We settled in and made a life here.
Both my brother and I have been through primary and secondary school here, and I’ve gone on to university, where I studied an undergraduate and master’s degree in psychology.
Daragh has since moved to New Zealand to work and study there, where our remaining grandparents live, along with cousins, aunt and uncle.
We are a family, like any other. We love and support each other.
What differentiates us, though, is how we are treated by the Irish State. Unlike other families, we don’t have the legal protection of being a fully-recognised family.
What this means in reality is that I only have a legal relationship to my mum who gave birth to me. My other mum is a stranger to me in the eyes of the law.
When I was little she couldn’t give legal consent to anything on my behalf.
Although we were blissfully unaware of it, that left me and my brother in a legal vacuum, with less rights and protections than other children.
I don’t want to face a future when my mum is older, where the caring shoe is on the other foot, where I am not recognised as her son, as her legal next of kin.
I’m lucky enough to now be engaged myself, which for me is obviously wonderful, but is still a little bitter-sweet.
I’ve been with my girlfriend for 6 years, but my parents have been together for 32 or so.
Yet, they can’t have their love recognised through marriage, but I can.
That’s what marriage is for really: Recognising love.
My parents having the opportunity to get married doesn’t devalue my relationship, it strengthens it.
By getting marriage equality discussed on a public, national platform in Ireland, you’re going to help to protect and respect families like mine.
I thank you for the opportunity to share my story in-person.
For my parents, my family, my friends and all of the other lesbian and gay people in Ireland, I am asking you to recommend to the Government to provide for ‘same-sex marriage’.
Thank you

I submitted the following to the Constitutional Convention. Hope everyone else wrote in with something.

My name is Conor Pendergrast and thanks for your time. I’d like to talk to you briefly about my family (Ann Pendergrast, Bernadette Manning, Daragh Pendergrast-Manning and myself). As a young man, raised by two mothers, it’s a pleasure to share my experience of growing up with same-sex parents with the constitutional convention. I was born in London in 1986, with my brother also being born there in 1989. In 1995, we moved to Ireland, where we lived in Co. Kildare. We settled in and made a life here. Both my brother and I have been through primary and secondary school here, and I’ve gone on to university. Daragh has moved to New Zealand now to work and study there, where we have more family.

We’ve had cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, fish, horses, ponies and other pets, all part of our family. We are a family, like any other. We love and support each other. What differentiates us, though, is how we are treated by the Irish State. Unlike other families, we don’t have the legal protection of being a fully-recognised family. While the Civil Partnership Act went some way to improving this, there are still 160-odd differences between civil partnership and marriage. That’s 160 ways in which our family is considered less legitimate by the State. That’s 160 ways in which our family is vulnerable.

By getting marriage equality discussed on a public, national platform in Ireland, you’re going to help to protect and respect families like mine. I would really welcome the opportunity to share my story in-person and to answer any questions you might have about growing up in a family with same-sex parents.

Thank you again for your time in reading this. I hope that you see that we need to put the issue of marriage equality to a referendum and let the Irish people decide for themselves whether or not they support marriage equality.

Conor Pendergrast

Thanks for dropping by.