Let the gay gardaí march
SHOULD LGBT gardaí wear their uniforms during a Pride march? This very simple question has exercised minds in an Garda Síochana and the European Gay Police Association (EGPA) in the past few days. It has been common practice in Britain and on the continent for gay police to wear their uniforms during Pride marches. Our society now recognises that being LGBT is perfectly normal and that Pride marches are part of the calendar. Why, then, has an Garda Síochana refused permission to its LGBT members to wear their uniforms? The Garda press office has said that since these gardaí are off duty, they may not wear their uniforms. If this is the only reason, it is a very poor one.
Ireland has consistently lagged behind the rest of western Europe on LGBT rights. Homosexuality was only decriminalised in the 1990s and attitudes towards LGBT people remain mixed. The number of openly LGBT people in public office is very low, with Senator David Norris, a veteran gay rights campaigner, being the most obvious. The fact that there is a significant number of LGBT gardaí willing to take part in a Pride parade wearing their uniforms is hugely positive. LGBT people are an intrinsic part of our society, they work in every occupation, they exist in every walk of life but they are not always visible. It is essential that those gardaí who want to be visible are allowed to be.
Since its foundation, an Garda Síochana has been a major part of Irish life and civic identity. Everyone knows a garda or someone related to a garda. Acceptance of LGBT people has come slowly but the visibility of gay people in organisations like the Gardaí is a necessary step in ending prejudice, normalising the LGBT community in the eyes of those who have no experience of them and ending fear for any LGBT people who might want to take part in civic life by becoming a garda or by joining any other state organisation. The lack of uniformed gardaí in Pride parades is an error that should be corrected.
Members of the EGPA will march in uniform in Dublin but their Irish colleagues will wear plain clothes. It is time to accept that LGBT people are a core part of our society and that showing everyone that LGBT people serve the public good as gardaí or as politicians or as soldiers is they way forward for gay rights in Ireland. LGBT gardaí should be able to take pride in Pride parades and take pride in serving their communities but also as examples to all those LGBT people who may not think an Garda Síochana or organisations like it are for them.
Posted by Darragh Roche, Editor on at 12:38 pm.
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