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Timeline of landmarks in Ireland’s changing attitude to gays

DUBLIN (AP) — Gays in Ireland lived in the shadows for decades, lest they face ridicule, assault or even prison in Victorian times. Saturday’s referendum result to legalize gay marriage represents a stunning triumph for gay rights activists following decades of struggle to gain greater rights and respect.

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1861: Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, becomes subject to the Offences Against the Persons Act that makes gay male intercourse a crime punishable by up to life in prison.

1885: A new British law creates ill-defined offense of “gross indecency” used to prosecute gay men for wider range of sexual practices.

1895: Irish author and playwright Oscar Wilde convicted of gross indecency in London court, given two-year prison sentence. Scores of other men receive similar sentences in the late 19th century in Irish courts.

1922: Predominantly Catholic south of Ireland wins independence from Britain, keeps British anti-gay laws in its criminal code.

1967: Britain decriminalizes homosexual acts in 1967.

1974: Trinity College literary scholar David Norris helps form Ireland’s first gay rights group, the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, seeking to decriminalize gay sexual practices in Ireland. Two future presidents of Ireland, Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, serve as its legal advisers.

1980: Norris sues Ireland, argues British anti-gay laws are unconstitutional under terms of Ireland’s 1937 constitution. High Court in 1980 and Supreme Court in 1983 reject his arguments, citing constitution’s Christian ethos.

1982: Declan Flynn, 31, beaten to death in Dublin park by teenage gang taunting him as a homosexual.

1983: Gay Pride movement in Ireland formed in protest against a court’s decision to give Flynn’s killers suspended sentences. Parade grows over three decades into a 10-day festival.

1987: Norris elected to Ireland’s upper house of parliament, the Seanad, by Trinity College students.

1988: European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, finds Ireland guilty of violating gays’ right to privacy. Ireland ordered to comply and pay Norris’ past five years of legal costs.

1993: Ireland passes law decriminalizing homosexual acts.

1998: Ireland outlaws discriminatory treatment of gays in workplace, but religious organizations — chiefly the Catholic Church, which runs most schools and many hospitals — receive an opt-out.

2000: Equal Status Act outlaws discriminatory treatment of gays by businesses and government-provided services. Designed to stop pubs and clubs from barring gays, banks from denying loans, and landlords refusing to rent properties.

2006: A lesbian couple — an American theologian and an Irish former nun who met at Boston College and were married in Canada — sue Ireland to have their marriage recognized domestically. High Court concedes that Ireland’s constitution does not explicitly define marriage as between a man and woman, but rejects women’s case on grounds that Irish law universally recognizes marriage as a heterosexual institution.

2010: Parliament passes civil partnerships law, creates marriage-style contracts for gay couples granting them nearly identical financial benefits to married couples in tax, pensions, property ownership, inheritance and other issues. More than 1,000 gay couples have their civil partnerships registered in marriage-style ceremonies.

2011: Ireland’s key lower house of parliament, the 166-member Dail Eireann, elects its first three publicly gay members.

2013: Constitutional Convention advises government to hold referendum to legalize gay marriage, finds dozens of legal deficiencies in civil partnerships versus marriage, particularly on parental rights.

2014: Prime Minister Enda Kenny pays pre-Christmas visit to Dublin’s premier drag venue, the Pantibar, after its star drag queen, Panti Bliss, inspires nationwide debate on level of homophobia in Irish society.

2015: In January, Cabinet minister Leo Varadkar announces he’s homosexual ahead of government campaign to legalize gay marriage. On May 22, voters pass a referendum legalizing same-sex unions, the first such national vote in the world.

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