When Irish Gays Are Smilin'


In 1895, a British court convicted Oscar Wilde of sodomy and sentenced him to hard labor at Reading jail. Now, almost a century later, Ireland's most famous bisexual has received a small measure of vindication—the European Court of Human Rights has ordered the Irish government to get rid of its antisodomy law.

Irish law currently makes homosexual acts punishable by life imprisonment. No one has been prosecuted under the law in recent years, but Dublin gay David Norris sued the government, claiming the law violates basic human rights. Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey has indicated that he will follow the court's directions and attempt to repeal the law, despite strong opposition from conservative Catholics.

Haughey may also take on Ireland's constitutional ban on divorce. In 1986 voters narrowly rejected a referendum that would have legalized it. Polls now show that a majority supports divorce reform.