Healey celebrates LGBTQ rights in speech to Irish Senate in first overseas trip as governor

Gov. Maura Healey at the State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Gov. Maura Healey at the State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey — one of the country's first two openly lesbian elected governors and a descendant of Irish immigrants — addressed the Irish Senate on Tuesday to help commemorate the 30th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Ireland.

“It was not so long ago, when the story of Irish-American unity, and the story of gay liberation would never have been told together,” Healey said in her speech to the Senate. “I’m here to say they are stories of the same people, threads in the same fabric that binds us across time and strengthens us to face the future.”

Ireland passed a law decriminalizing homosexual acts in 1993. Nearly two decades later, the predominantly Catholic nation legalized same-sex marriage, by popular vote, in 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide the same year.

“It’s been 19 years since we secured marriage equality in Massachusetts — eight years since both the citizens of Ireland and the Supreme Court of the United States, just one month apart, declared that 'love is love' once and for all,” Healey said.

Healey's trip also coincides with the 60th anniversary of a state visit to Ireland by another Massachusetts Democrat — President John F. Kennedy — that helped usher in an economic and cultural partnership between the two countries.

Healey's agenda during the weeklong trip, which begins and ends in Dublin, also includes business development meetings with Irish business leaders in technology and clean energy. Her visit doubles as a trade mission, her first since taking office in January.

Healey's pitch is that Massachusetts offers a lot that Irish businesses will find attractive, from the state's “world-class education and research institutions to our cutting-edge biotechnology and clean energy sectors to our commitment to protecting civil rights and freedom.”

Healey traces her Irish ancestry on her mother’s side to Ballinasloe, County Galway. Her maternal great-grandmother Katherine Tracy emigrated to America at age 16 in 1912. On the paternal side, Healey’s grandfather came from Kilgarvan, County Kerry, and her grandmother came from Macroom, County Cork.

Healey said her story is just one of millions of emigrant stories that helped build Massachusetts and the United States.

“Our Irish ancestors left behind everything they knew and worked hard to give us all we would need,” Healey said. “I was raised with the values they passed on — taking care of your family, taking responsibility for the welfare of your community, and looking out for those who need a helping hand.”

Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll is serving as Massachusetts acting governor during Healey's trip.



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