New Ross Senator Jim Walsh has again offended gay people. A while ago he said that he opposed civil partnerships because it discriminated against the family unit. Now I care hugely about the family unit too. So does his senate colleague David Norris. Strangely Jim’s concern for families took a back seat when it came to the senate discussion on individualisation of the tax band a few years ago. While the likes of me, Labour senators and David Norris objected to the move, the good senator from New Ross kept his views to himself as he gave Charlie McCreevy the green light for one of the most anti-family moves in the tax code for many’s the long year. When Jim criticises working mothers, many who are now the sole bread winner for families due to unemployment, he should remember that that he voted for the policy that resulted in many women entering the work force due to that budgetary cut.
Today he’s in the headlines again because he says he can’t call gay people fairies and because he says working mothers are the main cause of depression in young people. Jim believes that you cannot take gay rights campaigners seriously because they walk round in demonstrations half naked. I remember the H Block campaign when there were quite a number of men who walked the streets of this island wrapped in only a blanket, some of whom went on to win political office, so maybe the electorate are ahead of some of our politicians on that one.
What intrigues me is that Jim claims that many people are born inherently gay (I would go further and say all, however coming out can happen for different reasons at different ages) while others according to Jim may be gay because of environmental factors! He references a psychologist to back up his views. There is one other politician on this island who holds that view and that’s Iris Robinson MP. If my memory serves me right Iris shares an office with this psychologist and for a few quid he can reverse the patients condition back to heterosexuality!
It would be easy to dismiss this ignorance so I won’t. Instead let’s pose the question about Jim’s claims; what are these environmental factors in our society that he claims are inducing homosexuality in our young people? I’ve taught for a long time and each day I meet more young people in a day than Jim meets in a year and I haven’t an idea about what he’s talking about. The reality is that young people especially girls are exposed to early adultisation and sexualisation, one that is strongly heterosexual and not homosexual. It is that children are responding to consumer and imaging pressure and that it is shortening their childhood. I’ve never seen the environmental factors that Jim claims push young people to be homosexual by diffusion. Donal Óg Cusack spent a life in a strongly heterosexual and macho sport of hurling but never became heterosexual by osmosis.
The Jim Walsh’s of this world need to understand that you cannot have a little bit of equality in this society. You either have it or you don’t. I’ve always believed that the state has no role intruding into the nation’s bedrooms or trying to regulate a citizen’s personal or private life. What have heterosexuals to be afraid of? How can it be fair for a legislator to discriminate against a person in matters of social welfare entitlements or succession on the basis of what you think the person may (or may not) be in the privacy of their own mind?
The Labour Party has always strongly supported equity. It’s why we would legislate for gay marriage and end discrimination against gay people. We produced legislation for civil partnership that was superior to the present bill that makes slow progress through the Oireachtas. There is a growing trend in Fianna Fail circles to speak against civil partnerships. I hope that Jim would wise up and set aside his prejudices by the time he rises to speak on the matter. Even Podge and Rodge would understand this one!