Tipp lesbian couple see referendum as an opportunity for equality and fairness

Lorna Ryan and Fiona Gallagher at their Civil Partnership ceremony in Ballykisteen Hotel
Lorna Gallagher from Bansha and Fiona Ryan from Knockavilla, Dundrum have been together for nine years. They had their Civil Partnership ceremony in 2014 and now live in Monard. They are both hoping for a ‘yes’ vote in the upcoming referendum.

Lorna Gallagher from Bansha and Fiona Ryan from Knockavilla, Dundrum have been together for nine years. They had their Civil Partnership ceremony in 2014 and now live in Monard. They are both hoping for a ‘yes’ vote in the upcoming referendum.

“We first met at work in Johnson & Johnson in Cashel. I was over security and I met Fiona in 2006 when she came in looking for security experience after finishing a security studies course in college,” explained Lorna. “We were inseparable and she moved into the house I had bought a few months earlier just three weeks after we met. We worked the same hours and lived together so we spent 24 hours a day together and it still isn’t enough. We are so close and have such respect for each other.”

The couple booked their civil partnership through the HSE for the morning of May 9, 2014 to take place in Raheen House, Clonmel followed by the reception in Ballykisteen House Hotel. “We got a call at 3pm on May 8th, the day before, saying that the registrar was sick and couldn’t perform our civil partnership,” said Laura. “We were told that the only way we could have the civil partnership ceremony was to drive to Waterford city that evening before 5.30pm before they finished for the day. We had no choice as we had 50 guests arranged for Ballykisteen the next day. “We got in the car and drove to Waterford as quick as we could for the most uncomfortable unromantic twenty minutes of our lives. Two elderly ladies read out a piece of paper to us in a meeting room of the Care-Doc offices in Waterford city. That was our Civil Partnership ceremony and this is why we deserve a ‘yes’ vote on May 22, just to be able to show our love and be treated as equal and not second-class citizens to heterosexuals. We are so happy for straight couples and most of our friends are straight but they were horrified at experience with the Civil Partnership Ceremony in Waterford,” she said.

“For our reception in Ballykisteen Hotel the staff treated us like royalty and it really made us feel like equals, which is what we deserve. Fiona and I have respect for all ages, religions, nationalities and sexual orientation, so why should it be any difference the other way around? At the reception, Fiona’s 85 year-old grandfather Thomas Toomey from Dualla made a speech. It brought tears to all of our eyes as he is the only living grandparent on both sides and he said, “Well, I can leave this life knowing I was at a gay wedding.”” said Lorna.

Lorna and Fiona’s guests, of all ages and nationalities came together to celebrate their partnership in what they saw was as normal as a straight couple’s celebration. The girl’s very best friend, Albert Lisiak, who is Polish living in Cashel for almost ten years, also made a great speech.

Both Fiona and Lorna told their parents they were gay when they were 17-years old. “We both have fantastic parents and they said that our civil partnership was the most amazing and romantic day they ever spent and that they have never seen us as happy,” said Lorna.

Lorna’s sister Tanya has a seven year-old son called James. He heard his aunt discussing the gay marriage referendum and said, “Auntie Lolla, I don’t get this gay marriage thing at all. Well you love each other and what’s the big deal and why are people voting on what you are allowed to do? Anyone can marry anyone if they love each other? I don’t get the big deal about it at all.”

Lorna explained that since the Civil Partnership ceremony her and Fiona say they are ‘married’. “It sounds like we are second class citizens when we have to say “oh we are civil partners” - it just doesn’t sound equal or fair and that is all we ask is to be equal. A yes vote would change this. We are just normal people who have normal lifestyles and a yes vote would make us, along with every gay person in Ireland, very happy and it would mean our first anniversary of our Civil Partnership would be around the date of history being made in Ireland. It would show the rest of the world that we are a very fair and equal rights country. A yes vote says the stigma is lifted and we would feel like a united country to show love for all relationships and respect others wishes to just live happily ever after.”

Fiona feels very strongly for a ‘yes’ vote. “A yes vote would mean that future teenagers growing up won’t feel the need to move to a big city or another country just to live their lives where it is more socially acceptable, instead of staying closer to home with family and friends who accept them for the person that they know and love, and not to judge them based on who they choose to fall in love with. We are all the same and people should not judge us once we are happy and are in loving relationships.”

Lorna and Fiona love children and are planning to start a family of their own very soon.