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Norris, David (b. 1944)  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  

Geoghegan-Quinn announced her intention to submit a bill in February 1993. The measure finally passed in June. President Mary Robinson signed the measure into law, bringing a happy conclusion to the quest that Norris and she had begun so many years before.

On the historic occasion Norris wrote, "I will, for the first time in my life, feel that I am a full and equal citizen of my own country."

Sponsor Message.

Nor was he alone in that sentiment. As it happened, the law was adopted just in time to make Dublin's annual pride festivities a moment of especially great celebration. Journalist Mary Holland described the atmosphere as one of "exuberance and delight" combined with "an enormous, palpable sense of relief." She further observed that "one would need to have a heart of stone not to have been moved by the great waves of happiness that surged through the centre of Dublin" on the jubilant occasion.

Norris has continued to address issues of concern to the Irish glbtq community, including workplace discrimination, which was banned in October 1993, and immigration rights for foreign partners, which have so far been denied.

Long-Time Relationship and Its Dissolution

Norris's own relationship with his longtime love, Ezra Yizhak Nawi, fell victim to the stress of forced separation. The couple met in Dublin, where Nawi, an Israeli, was vacationing. Unable to obtain a work permit and deported, Nawi made do with annual month-long visas, and Norris spent vacation time with him in Jerusalem. The situation, Norris said, put "an intolerable strain" on their relationship, which ended in 2001 after twenty-six years.

Norris commented, "I would prefer not to see other people having to go through the heartache that I have had to endure," adding that if he and Nawi had been able to marry, they might not have broken up.

Civil Partnership Bill

For years Norris worked to repeal Article 41.3.1 of the Constitution, which asserts a state interest in safeguarding the institution of marriage as the sole basis of the family, an article that has been widely interpreted to preclude any recognition of same-sex couples.

After considerable effort Norris succeeded in having a Civil Partnership Bill accepted for hearings in the legislature in 2004. The measure would allow gay and lesbian couples (as well as opposite-sex couples who choose not to marry) to enjoy the same rights as heterosexual spouses. These include equivalent status in matters of taxation, pension rights, the ability to inherit, and recognition of the partners as next of kin, as well as immigration rights for foreign partners.

The bill had a second reading in March 2005, but stalled for several years.

Norris stated in 2004 that "It would bring my career in this area to a satisfying conclusion if my name were on the Bill that finally and definitively removed discrimination." That satisfying conclusion was finally realized in 2010.

In 2009 and 2010, Norris's proposal for a civil partnership bill was developed and refined. The bill that was finally signed into law on July 19, 2010, provides a wide range of protections, rights, and obligations for same-sex couples in areas such as pensions, taxes, social welfare, domestic violence, inheritance, and joint tenancy. It grants all the rights and responsibilities of marriage except the right to adopt children.

The bill, modeled on the U.K.'s civil partnership legislation, was, despite opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, passed without a vote in the Dàil and with an overwhelming majority in the Seanad at the beginning of July. It went into effect on January 1, 2011.

Although by the time the civil partnership bill came to a vote, Norris had come to the conclusion that marriage equality could be achieved, he nevertheless deserves great credit for his work on behalf the milestone legislation. Its passage is a fitting honor for the courageous campaigner who has worked unstintingly to bring dignity and equality to the glbtq citizens of Ireland.

Presidential Campaign

In 2011 Norris declared his candidacy for the presidency of Ireland. He quickly became the front runner in the electoral race and it seemed possible that he would become not only Ireland's first openly gay president, but one of a handful of openly gay heads of state in the world.

However, in August 2011, when it was reported in the press that Norris had intervened in a court case in Israel in which Nawi had been charged with statutory rape, the senator ended his campaign for the presidency.

The case, heard in 1997, stemmed from an encounter in 1992 between Nawi and a fifteen-year-old boy. (The age of consent in Israel is sixteen.) Nawi pleaded guilty and was awaiting sentencing when Norris wrote to the Israeli court, asking for clemency.

Norris's involvement in the case came to light when John Connolly, an Irish-born resident of London, wrote about it on his blog. Connolly told Pat Flanagan of The Mirror that "a leading Irish trade unionist" had given him a tip and that he had publicized the incident because he saw Norris as an opponent of Israel. "I have no regrets about what has occurred," he declared after Norris's withdrawal from the campaign.

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