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Gay couple reflects hopes, ahead of same-sex marriage vote

Updated: 2015-05-19 07:42
By Agencies in Dungarvan and Dublin (China Daily)

When Donal Traynor met Joseph Bowlby in Dublin in 1994, a year after Ireland decriminalized homosexuality, neither man ever imagined Ireland would one day hold a referendum on legalizing same-sex marriage, as it will this week.

"It feels really weird," Traynor, 53, said in the home he now shares with Bowlby and their two adopted sons in southeast Ireland. "But on the other hand, if it passes, what an affirmation that would be for the years and years of work we've done to change our bit of Ireland!"

Bowlby, 55, who is from the US state of Alabama, said: "I still can't believe that there's a referendum on gay marriage."

A series of polls over the weekend indicated that voters are set to back the introduction of gay marriage by a margin of as much as 2-to-1.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said on Sunday that Ireland must seize its opportunity to become the first country to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote.

"There is a reservoir of emotion in there that needs to be lanced," Kenny told the Sunday Independent newspaper. "If somebody says: 'I am a gay person and I want to get married' - is their own family going to deny them that? Are our own fellow citizens going to deny them that?"

Bowlby was vacationing in Ireland in 1994 when he met Traynor. They fell in love in an era of great social change in Ireland, not just for gay people. Divorce was soon to be legalized, and Ireland's economy was about to take off. Both men recall a "different world" when they came out to their families as gay several decades ago.

The couple moved to London in 2003 and returned last year as civil partners with children, moving into a quiet housing estate on the edge of Dungarvan, a seaside town.

The referendum, which will be held on Friday, will mark a milestone in the life journey of both men, but also for Ireland, which until recently was marked by social conservatism under the watchful eye of the Catholic Church.

"Passing this referendum would mean we finally have a place at the table in Ireland and are recognized," Traynor said.

"The big word here is equality," Bowlby said. "It would mean we would be equal in the law and hopefully more and more in the general population's eyes."

Those opposing the referendum focused their campaign on possible future implications for children and surrogacy. Both men say the focus of the "no" side on the suitability of gay people to raise children ignores the reality of nontraditional families in Ireland.

"What we can offer the children is safety, security, nurture as well as love," Traynor said. "For me, it's about our boys. It says wherever they are, they can be whoever they want to be. They can be honest. And it would not just be us saying that, it would be society."

AFP - Reuters

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