Homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland 27 years ago today
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Homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland 27 years ago today

TWENTY-SEVEN years ago, Ireland passed legislation which brought an end to the criminalisation of homosexuality.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act passed through the Oireachtas on 24 June 1993 and Ireland has been pushing forward with issues surrounding LGBT rights ever since.

The change in law came about after years of tireless campaigning from multiple corners of Irish society, thanks in no small part to the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform (CHLR), spearheaded by David Norris.

Norris and his team worked for over a decade before finally securing a significant victory in the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that Irish law, specifically laws which criminalised sexual relations between people of the same sex, contradicted Europe's Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

In 1988, the European courts ruled in favour of Norris, and five years later, Ireland decriminalised male homosexual behaviour.

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"The passage of the Bill in June 1993 was a watershed in the lives of gay and lesbian people in Ireland," said Kieran Rose, the head of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network.

"No longer were Irish people to be treated as criminals, just because of who they were.

"The passage of the Bill was one of the most important steps in the liberation of gay people in Ireland," he added.

"It led to new generations of lesbian and gay people able to live their lives more openly."

Following the legislation in 1993, a series of other reforms were brought in, including domestic violence protections, funding for health and social services for gay and lesbian people, and civil partnership legislation.

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In May 2015, a referendum on gay marriage was held and results saw the legalisation  legitimised, and in November of that year, it was passed into law.

Less than two years later, the nation's first openly gay Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar took office.

In 2018, Varadkar said: "I am grateful that we all have this opportunity to mark the 25th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland. It can be hard to change laws, and it can be even harder to change hearts and minds, to change what is considered normal, and to change a culture."

"We have come a very long way since the State regarded gay people as criminals," added Rose.

"Ireland has changed."