Saturday’s Pride march will have something to celebrate
Life for gay and lesbian people has been transformed over the last two decades
Participants in the 2012 Pride Parade on Merrion Square. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill
Next Saturday 35,000 people will parade through the streets of Dublin exuberantly, joyously celebrating Dublin LGBT Pride. It’s one of the great annual occasions in Dublin enjoyed by throngs of Dublin’s citizens and passers-by, who come out to join in the celebrations.
The parade signifies many things, but mostly it marks how Ireland has changed in a relatively short period of time.
Twenty years ago, the 1993 Dublin Pride march fitted into the Central Bank Plaza and yet had much to celebrate. The chant was “What do we want? Equality! When did we get it? Yesterday!” as participants cheered the passage of the law which decriminalised homosexuality. Mary Holland put it wonderfully in her column in this paper:
“One would need a heart of stone not to have been moved by the great waves of happiness that surged through the centre of Dublin last Saturday afternoon as Irish gays and lesbians took to the streets. They threw pink carnations into the crowd, walked hand in hand and chanted ‘We’re here, we’re queer, we’re legal.’”
That was a watershed moment in the liberation of gay and lesbian people in Ireland. Change had been long delayed. Senator David Norris had taken a case to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 1983 that we were still to be regarded as criminals. Senator Norris took and won his case at the European Court of Human Rights in 1988. A five-year campaign by GLEN, the ICCL and the trade union movement among others led to justice minister Máire Geoghegan-Quinn bringing a Bill to the Oireachtas in 1993 which decriminalised on the basis of equality.
The Debates in the Dáil and Seanad on the Bill are regarded as one of the pivotal moments in a transition to a more modern and progressive Ireland. Geoghegan- Quinn, in an address often cited as one of the great Dáil speeches, termed it “a necessary development of human rights”. Minister for equality and law reform Mervyn Taylor commented “What could be more important for us as legislators than to create a climate where two people who have chosen each other can express and share their love?” Senator Norris quoted Daniel O’Connell “Human dignity and freedom are not finite resources. By extending freedoms to others, you enhance, not diminish your own.”
Diverse and vibrant
Twenty years on, the LGBT community also has much to celebrate. Life for lesbian and gay people has been transformed over those 20 years. There are diverse and vibrant LGBT groups throughout country. More and more people are living their lives more openly, supported by their families, their friends, their work colleagues and their communities all across Ireland.
Decriminalisation ushered in further protections for LGBT people including powerful equality legislation, protection from dismissal in employment and comprehensive civil partnership legislation. Thousands of lesbian and gay people have celebrated their love and commitment through civil partnerships across every county in Ireland with joyful wedding celebrations where family, friends and neighbours give their affirmation of the profound commitment the couple have just given to one another.