Fair play to Leo: quick thoughts on Ireland’s first gay minister

Fair play to Leo: quick thoughts on Ireland’s first gay minister January 19, 2015

A fairly old picture of Leo Varadkar.
An oldish picture of Leo Varadkar.

Ireland’s Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, came out this morning in a radio interview, becoming Ireland’s first openly gay Cabinet Minister.

Apparently Minister Varadkar was already out to people close to him, but hadn’t previously made a public statement on the matter.

Thankfully, the response in Ireland to Varadkar’s announcement has been overwhelmingly positive.  About the worst he’s got is “shouldn’t make any difference to his job one way or another.”

Which is true, but like most others I’d go considerably further: I think it’s really good that the Minister’s made this announcement.

A situation where people of all faiths and none, people on “Side A” and “Side B”, feel free to come out and be honest about a part of who they are, is an objectively good situation. It’s often a very difficult thing to do, and I think putting pressure on people to come out when they’re not ready is a terrible idea – but the more people feel free to do this, the better it’ll be for gay people,  for society and for the Church.

As Eve Tushnet wrote in an excellent piece for the American Conservative last year:

…coming out is a practice of honesty and integrity—no more “pronoun games,” no more hedging and sudden silence when the conversation turns to romance or visions of one’s future. The coming-out narrative transforms a source of shame and stigma into a freely accepted, simple truth, which no longer excludes one from the ordinary social world. Coming out allows deeper bonds to be formed: not only romantic relationships but deeper friendships, more honest familial ties, and more pointed and relevant relationships with spiritual guides such as confessors or pastors.

It’s worth reading Tushnet’s whole “Coming out Christian” article, which talks about the impact that faithful gay Christians are having inside the Church and outside it. Varadkar, a Catholic, doesn’t seem to agree with the Church’s teaching on sexuality – but by coming out he’s still making things better for gay Christians who do.

I agree with Leo Varadkar as a politician on some issues, and disagree with him on others (the most significant of which is not marriage redefinition, but his support for rolling back the civil rights of terminally ill unborn children, who are currently still protected under Irish law).

But his views are beside the point. By coming out today, Minister Varadkar did something good, and something that’ll help other people to do good.

So, fair play to Leo.

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