As Pride month draws to a close it seems fitting to look back on the landmark case of Norris v Ireland, the European Court of Human Rights decision that acted as the major catalyst in the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland.
Prior to his battle on the European stage, Senator David Norris had unsuccessfully taken a case against the Attorney General in the Irish High Court over the criminalisation of homosexual acts, Norris then appealed the decision at Supreme Court level. Ultimately the constitutionality of the law was upheld, a harrowing reminder of the Irish States treatment of the LGBTQ+ community throughout history. Chief Justice O’Higgins reasoned his decision on the basis that Norris had no right to privacy which could prevail against the criminal sanctions and on the grounds that the ‘Christian nature’ of the state did not allow for it.
In 1988 David Norris’s battle came to an end with the ECHR decision in favour of his argument that the criminalisation of homosexual acts was in violation of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which explicitly provides for a right to privacy. This landmark outcome eventually led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland in 1993 when the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill was brought forward before the Dáil.
Norris’s tenacious courage over 30 years ago led to one of most positive overhauls of the Irish law and paved the way for significant cultural changes within Irish society, many other significant developments within this area of the law including the Civil Partnership Act in 2010 and of course the Marriage Equality Referendum in 2015. That event in particular highlights the positive effect this case had on Irish society as Ireland became the first country in the world to introduce same-sex marriage by popular vote.
Check out the case here.
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