DUBLIN, IRELAND – MAY 23: Drag queen artist and Yes campaign activist, Panti Bliss joins supporters in favour of same-sex marriage celebrate and cheer as thousands gather in Dublin Castle square awaiting the referendum vote outcome on May 23, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. Voters in the Republic of Ireland are taking part in a referendum on legalising same-sex marriage on Friday. The referendum was held 22 years after Ireland decriminalised homosexuality with more than 3.2m people being asked whether they want to amend the country’s constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
For older activists, the moment marked a profound evolution of their country. For the world, it suggested how far the gay rights movement has come, to make such a significant step in a country with a storied history as a religious stronghold.
“Throughout my youth, adolescence and young adulthood, it was a criminal offense to be gay,” said David Norris, a 70-year-old Irish senator and longtime activist.
David Norris photographed by Brian Lawless/PA
He said he had faced “total isolation” as a young man.
“There was silence on the subject,” he said. “It wasn’t mentioned in the newspapers, it wasn’t mentioned in the broadcast media. Then there was a fear of criminal prosecution, of being involuntarily placed in a lunatic asylum, losing your job, being socially destroyed. It was a terrible situation.”
The referendum changes Ireland’s Constitution so that civil marriage between two people is now legal “without distinction as to their sex.”