Fine Gael senator Eamonn Coghlan has called for a Yes vote in the upcoming marriage referendum and revealed his own struggle in coming to terms with his son’s sexuality.
Appearing at a Fine Gael LGBT public meeting last night, the former Olympic runner spoke about the difficulties his son Michael faced as a result of being gay.
“When I discovered my son Michael was gay I was devastated. I cried for weeks. The hopes and dreams I had for my son were shattered. I felt guilty, almost as if I was to blame for him being gay,” Coghlan told the audience in Portlaoise.
“I tried to cover up my disappointment. While I hugged him, told him I loved him, I had to come to terms that, it was not about me but about him and his life ahead.
Coghlan spoke about how meeting his son’s friends – some of whom are gay – made him open his eyes. “I got to know them and see how happy he was with his mates. Michael is a grown man now, but he suffered awful bullying in school.”
Coghlan told the audience that his son suffered from anxiety in school, and was often subject to bullying by classmates. “At the time, we didn’t know why this was happening but after he came out it became apparent that it was because he was gay.
“The abuse didn’t stop after he came out. He was subject to two particularly violent physical attacks in Dublin on account of his being gay.”
Coghlan delivered a powerful endorsement of the referendum on May 22, saying, “I was lucky enough to marry the woman of my dreams. Who are we as a nation to deny our sons and daughters the basic right of marrying the person they love?
“It is about equality, removing rejection, removing exclusion, removing the guilt, shame and fear that gay people experience. We have to think of the person, their dignity, their validation, their human freedom to love and to live life to the full.”
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