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Gay History Month – David Norris is my Gay Hero by Patrick Darcy

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David NorrisDavid Norris is my Gay Hero, but he is also like a B movie monster. Thankfully, the forces of conservatism can’t kill him off! And god knows they’ve tried.

So who is David? He is campaigner for gay rights in Ireland, a Senator, presidential candidate and all around Gay Super Hero.

It’s hard to believe that gay sex was only ‘decriminalised’ in Ireland back in 1993. This was primarily down to a campaign led by David, which eventually resulted in a ruling from the European Court for Human Rights. Put simply, the ruling decreed that anti-gay laws in Ireland violated a person’s right to a private life. It took a further five years for the Oireachtas (The Parliament of Ireland) to enact legislation that ‘decriminalised’ male homosexuality.

The campaign for gay rights saw David vilified. The country was at the time still dominated by the Catholic Church, which led a venomous campaign against him. The courage that it took David, and the others in the movement, should not be under estimated. They were accused of undermining the fabric of society, and as being apologists for paedophiles. The campaign against them was sustained and vitriolic. In fact it was victorious. The Supreme Court of Ireland upheld the State’s right to discriminate against citizens of the republic. It took an appeal to the European courts to finally change the law in Ireland.

David did not stop there. He’s now a serving Senator in the Seanad (The Irish Senate), where he has continued to champion gay rights. Right now he is campaigning for full marriage and adoption rights, whilst fighting cancer. Like I said, you just can’t kill him! (See David shave his beard for charity)

In 2011 he stood for election as President of Ireland, sadly it was not meant to be. There is a generation of Irish who are not yet ready to accept an openly gay president. But the mere fact that David was able to stand for election, and be taken seriously, shows the great progress made by gay people in Ireland. Much of which is down to him.

Let me finish by laying out what Ireland was like before David’s campaigning. Gay men were regularly arrested and charged under unfair indecency laws. There were numerous instances of police intimidation, and harassment, and sadly cases of suicide.

Ireland today is very different place. There is a vibrant gay community, we have the right to Civil Partnerships, and people are largely free to be who they want, free of intimidation by the State. There are still things to achieve, but we should never underestimate the achievements of those pioneers of gay rights.

Slainte David!

1 Comment

  1. Pat Darcy

    You can’t underestimate the courage displayed by the gay rights pioneers, I’ll be toasting you in the pub tonight David. x

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