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social sciences

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After this adverse decision Norris and Robinson moved on to the European Commission on Human Rights. When the Commission ruled in favor of Norris, the Irish government had an automatic right to contest the decision in the European Court, which it chose to exercise.

The case was finally heard in April 1988, and the following October the Court found by a vote of eight to six that Irish law violated Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights. The onus was then on the Irish parliament to pass corrective legislation, a process that dragged on for another five years.

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The 1990s

Finally, on June 30, 1993 homosexuality in Ireland was decriminalized. The age of consent for all people was set at seventeen. David Norris, by then a senator, had led the campaign, and Mary Robinson, then President of Ireland, signed the bill into law.

By coincidence the ratification of the legislation came just days before Dublin's annual pride march, which consequently was a particularly jubilant event in 1993. Journalist Mary Holland wrote, "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.'"

Another victory was scored that October when the parliament passed a law forbidding discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation.

The New Century: Challenges and Opportunities

As important as these developments were, the challenge of overcoming long-embedded homophobic attitudes remains daunting. Change has been gradual but tolerance for gay people has increased in the new century.

Violence against gay men and lesbians remains a problem, and, particularly in conservative rural areas, the lack of a supportive network can cause lesbians and gay men to feel isolated and alone. One result is a tragically high suicide rate, especially among young men.

Larger cities like Dublin and Cork offer a more gay-friendly environment. The social scene is still rather limited, but the glbtq community now has more options and a greater visibility than ever before.

Several cities host annual pride parades. Dublin's, which drew only about 400 people when it began in 1992, has grown into a two-week festival. In 2003 approximately 6,000 glbtq people marched proudly through the streets of the capital. By 2010, the number of participants had grown to almost 25,000.

Technology has brought new opportunities for communication for Irish glbtq people, with chat rooms and on-line dating services. Television programs, some produced in Ireland and others imported, feature gay men and lesbians in increasing numbers.

Issues of parental rights and domestic partnership are of prime concern to the glbtq community in Ireland. Gay men and lesbians are now able to foster children but do not yet have the right to adopt them.

A major victory for rights was attained in 2010, when the Irish government announced that it would not appeal a High Court ruling that Irish law on transgender rights is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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