Gay Rights In Ireland Essay

3520 words - 14 pages

The Republic of Ireland has a complicated relationship with contemporary human rights laws that many western nation-states have been setting the precedent for, for quite some time. The Republic of Ireland prides itself on its strong Catholic roots, and indeed the adherence to what is essentially Catholic law. Ireland has a unique history that has seemed to act as both an enabler and an explanation as to why for a ‘western country’ it has been able to remain “about twenty years behind the west” (Hug 2001:26). In this essay I would like to focus on homosexual rights and discuss how the laws are changing in Ireland. I want to first focus on the precedent set by the history of law-making and interpreting in Ireland, and then following Ireland’s evolution in gay rights engage in a discussion about religion and secularism as they pertain to Ireland. I will discuss the current legal debate raging between teachers and the Irish government and what activists groups are doing to try to move legislation forward for more equal rights. This essay will culminate in an analysis of whether the Republic of Ireland is trending toward a more secular democratic future, why that may be, and what implications that has other human rights in Ireland.
Chrystel Hug asserts in her 2001 article that “the ‘catholicization’ of Irish law was almost spontaneous. William T. Cosgrave’s showed an eagerness…to use the powers of the state to protect Catholic moral values” (26). Irish law used natural law, as endorsed by the Catholic Church, and majoritariansim to justify the legislation in regards to sexual morality, which includes homosexuality, prostitution, abortion, and contraceptive use; arguing that they would be made or remain illegal because they ran against the common good (Hug 2001:24). Moral law and criminal law became synonymous and remained that way until the 1970’s when a cultural shift began to occur in the Irish populous, spurred on by the liberal debates raging in both the United Kingdom and the United states, and the ethical control held by the Catholic Church began to loosen as an array of values and lifestyle choices began to emerge. In the context of gay rights there became a shift in interpretation from objective to subject by the Irish Judiciary (Hug 2001:25). The Act that finally decriminalized homosexuality in 1993 is significant not only because of what the law did, but the philosophy behind it. “By delivering a bill not based solely on the implications of homosexuality being morally or socially acceptable, rather on the notion of whether it is acceptable to placate the majority by imposing extraneous and unnecessary laws to a minority, it exemplifies the shift in the philosophy under lying Irish law-making heretofore” (Hug 2001:37). This shift in the Irish law-making philosophy is analogous to the universalism versus cultural relativism debate within the rights discourse.
In the not too distant past, Irish law was completely engulfed and...

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