Sunday 18 November 2018

Mandela gave gay rights battle a legal framework

The late South African president was a significant figure in the fight against discrimination, writes Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

It's long been said that the difference between the race rights movement and the gay rights movement is that gay people always lacked a charismatic, unifying leader of the order of Nelson Mandela. Perhaps that was why, when he died last week, gay rights figures all over the world -- none of whom you'd recognise -- hailed his extraordinary example in ushering in the era of tolerance that we now enjoy.

In some ways, they were right: Mandela was one of the more significant figures in the gay rights movement. He was president of South Africa when the country brought in its 1996 constitution, which was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

That constitution then became the basis for judicial action, which ultimately led to the country's parliament legislating in favour of same-sex marriage in 2006.

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