It’s been over 25 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Ireland and not that many years since Ireland led the way by becoming one of the first countries to support same-sex marriage. While there is still a lot of work to do to promote LGBTQ rights, things are certainly moving in the right direction.

However, for those who are not aware of the history of how the LGBTQ community came to be where we are now in Ireland – leading the way as a country – it can still be quite a surprise to realize that:

  • Homosexual activity was only decriminalized in Ireland in 1993!
  • Only seven years have passed since civil partnerships were allowed.
  • Gay marriage has only been legalized in Ireland for four years (almost).

The LGBTQ movement has certainly progressed in the last quarter of a century, but it’s still alarming to think that these changes were still so recent.

To understand how we got to where we are today, here’s a quick breakdown of the history of how we managed to achieve same-sex marriage rights here in Ireland.

While the decriminalization of LGBT people came about in 1993, the battle to end the inequality of LGBT people in Ireland dates back to way before that. The laws against homosexuality, in Ireland, dated back to Victorian times and were enforced for almost 150 years.


Forced Slavery For Anybody Convicted Of Homosexual Activities


For most of Ireland’s history, its laws against homosexuality dated back to the Victorian era and were felt for more than 140 years. The consequences of the punishable act of ‘buggery’ at this time? Penal servitude (imprisonment or forced slavery with hard labor) for the rest of the convict’s life enforced under The Offences Against the Persons Act 1861.


A Failed Legal Fight and A Brave Man


David Norris, a lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, is one of the pioneers of the movement against the decriminalization of homosexuality. He began legal proceedings back in 1977 to decriminalize homosexuality. After three years of fighting, Norris lost his fight in both the High and Supreme courts.


Standing Strong Together


The next significant event was devastating. In 1982, a gay man named Declan Flynn was brutally and fatally attacked in Dublin by five men. These men were given suspended sentences for manslaughter.

But Declan did not die in vain.

This event led to the first Pride parade in 1983, which was intended to highlight unacceptable violence against LGBTQ men and women.

Moving onto 1988 and back to David Norris, the lecturer who was not taking his fate lying down – he decided to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights


Persistence Lead To Victory


David Norris was not willing to accept his former legal losses. He was fighting for his rights and the rights of others, and he was not going to stop.

He built a case against the Irish State over the constitutional status of the criminalization of certain homosexual acts, and it was a huge victory – especially since he won and it laid the road for further changes in the future for the decriminalization of homosexuality in Ireland.

Ireland finally decriminalized homosexuality on 24th June 1993. A huge day in Ireland’s LGBTQ history. The bill removed laws from the Irish Constitution which criminalized sexual acts between men.


A 17 Year Wait Before Further Progression


The decriminalization of homosexuality was a huge success, but it would be many years before a homosexual couple would have the rights to legally bind their relationship either through marriage or a civil partnership – 17 years to be precise!


The Civil Partnership Act


In 2010, the LGBTQ community had another huge success. The Civil Partnership Act was passed which gave LGBTQ couples more rights than they had ever had before. They were ‘awarded’ the same rights and obligations to LGBTQ couples toward each other. However, it still didn’t change anything concerning children (such as adoption, guardianship, or custody etc.).

Moving forward but still not good enough!


A Referendum For Change


On 22 May 2015, the whole Irish nation polled to vote on the legalization of same-sex marriage and 62% supported it. Ireland became the first country in the world to make same-sex marriage legal by popular vote!

Subsequently, same-sex marriage became legal on 16th November 2015.

And that is how the LGBTQ community in Ireland fought for rights for same-sex marriage and also how Ireland remains one of the leaders when it comes to acknowledging and accepting LGBTQ rights.

This has been a long fight, and will probably continue, but it’s an inspirational fight nonetheless regardless of what your sexuality is. This journey has taught those who are not LGBTQ that LGBTQ people are ‘us’, the same as them, their love is as good, valid, affirming and worthy of respect as any other love.

Gay or straight, we are the same, and we should all be entitled to marry the person we love.


Rachael Pace is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. She is a featured writer for, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.