The Irish Times view on Dublin Pride: Resistance and celebration
The revolution in Irish laws and social attitudes is one of the major national achievements of the past half-century. But in many corners of the world, the struggle remains as dangerous – and as vital – as it ever was
To those who attended Dublin’s first gay-pride march, a gathering of a few hundred activists in March 1983, the huge carnival-style celebration that will take place in Dublin today would once have been inconceivable. The mid-1980s were dark, painful days for Ireland’s gay community. At that first march, called the Gay Rights Protest March, demonstrators walked from Liberty Hall to Fairview Park – where, just months earlier, a young gay man named Declan Flynn had been attacked and killed. Consensual gay sex was a criminal offence. A month after the march, the Supreme Court would reject an attempt by a young academic named David Norris to try and overturn the ban. In a vague judgment that cited no case law but leaned heavily on “natural law” and the Christian tradition, chief justice Tom O’Higgins denounced homosexuality as a suggestible condition that was “of course, morally wrong”.
The marchers of 1983 were under no illusions, then: they were isolated, disowned, condemned by their own state. Theirs was an act of resistance, of defiance. Today, sponsors and advertisers will vie for the best spots and representatives of the country’s most important institutions, from An Garda Síochána to the GAA, will all take part. This mainstream embrace leaves some in the community feeling uneasy. But there is plenty to celebrate: the children perched on their parents’ shoulders at today’s events will grow up in a country transformed for the better – a transformation encapsulated by the passage of the marriage equality referendum of 2015.
This is not the end of the story, however. Far too many people in Ireland continue to face discrimination or prejudice for their sexuality. Farther afield, homosexual acts are illegal in almost 80 countries, and in many places intolerance and homophobia are getting worse.
The revolution in Irish laws and social attitudes is one of the major national achievements of the past half-century. But in many corners of the world, the struggle remains as dangerous – and as vital – as it ever was.