We will be supporting this legislation. It is long overdue to say the least. It has been debated ever since I was elected here in 2011. I published a Bill in respect of repealing the discriminatory nature of that legislation. The Labour Party and Fianna Fáil published Bills relating to it. Members of the Technical Group have also published a Bill on it. I do not know if it was in the programme for Government but various Ministers definitely gave a commitment that this legislation would be dealt with once and for all before the end of this Government's term of office. This leaves us with a very short window in which to deal with it so I hope this is one commitment that can be kept.
To be honest, the fact that people can be discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation is gross. It has no place in Irish society and needs to be dealt with quickly and in a very open and transparent manner within this Chamber because there is widespread support across all parties and none for the repeal of section 37. We just need to get on with the business of doing it. I remember how thejournal.ie ran a series on the impact of this section on teachers in particular either last year or early this year. One teacher who spoke to thejournal.ie said that when it was found out that he had spoken to the website and had openly announced that he was gay, he came under considerable pressure within his school, not just from the principal and the board of management but also from fellow teachers. He felt that he was not being listened to at meetings and he could feel that change in attitude towards him. To think that this can happen in this day and age is hard to get one's head around. We have just come out of a long campaign on marriage equality. This shows where our society is at. There is no doubt that there are people out there who are homophobic and that no matter what we say in here or what legislation we pass, we will not change their views on that but this Chamber can make a statement by passing this legislation. I note that the Government is supporting this and it will go to Committee Stage. I suspect that the Government will bring forward its own legislation in time and this will be the legislation we will ultimately end up voting on. Even the fact that it is being allowed to proceed to Committee Stage sends out the message that we are all united in respect of that, which I welcome.
It is not just schools. It also affects hospitals and other institutions that are run with a religious ethos. I consider myself to be religious. I go to Mass regularly. I bring my children up in a religious ethos but just because I am religious and attend Mass does not mean to say that people do not have rights and that I would not stand up for them. People's sexual orientation has nothing to do with religion. This is about equality. Much has been done over the past number of weeks to enhance equality within Irish society. I know the Minister of State is doing a lot of work in respect of direct provision. This section in the legislation is draconian and needs to be taken off the Statute Book very quickly.
This section in the legislation could technically discriminate against somebody who is divorced or a single mother so it is not just about the LGBT community. It goes beyond that even though the main focus is on the LGBT community. We should not lose sight of the fact that it also affects other people - single mothers, people who may be divorced or people with a different religious background. Due to the fact that we have not grasped the idea of separating Church and education, many schools have a Catholic ethos. Ireland is becoming very multicultural. The Education (Admission to Schools) Bill will also help break down some of those barriers when it comes to schools of a particular religious ethos. We are hearing stories of parents who only have the option of the local Catholic school when they want to enrol children in school. Due to the fact that they may not be bringing up their children in that religious ethos, they feel forced to get their child christened so that they have an opportunity to enrol their child in that school.
We fully support the Government in bringing forward its own legislation. I hope it will happen before the end of this Government's term of office because we cannot afford to allow it to slip into the next Dáil. That would be grossly unfair on teachers, nurses or anyone else who could be discriminated against by this section of the legislation. It has to go.