Former Irish President Mary McAleese is urging voters to approve a referendum on marriage equality.

Voters head to the polls on Friday. If approved, Ireland would become the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.

Speaking at an event in Dublin organized by BeLonG, a group devoted to LGBT youth, McAleese, who left office in 2011, said that she did not bring her son Justin into the world “to be a second class citizen.”

“I am grateful that my gay son grew up in a gay-friendly household,” McAleese said.

“But we were not able to protect him from hostility outside our home. And like so many parents of gay children, we were worried sick about the man-made barriers we knew he would encounter, including the constitutional barrier that would never let him marry the person he loved.”

“We who are parents, brothers and sisters, colleagues and friends of Ireland's gay citizens know how they have suffered because of second-class citizenship.”

“This referendum is about them and them alone. The only children affected by this referendum will be Ireland's gay children. It is their future which is at stake. It is in our hands.”

“A yes vote costs the rest of us nothing. A no vote costs our gay children everything,” she added.