LGBT rights activists have been buzzing for the past few months about David Norris, an openly gay man who was considered a frontrunner for the role of the presidency of Ireland. He was vying for a nomination for the presidency, and if he had received the nomination, the senator would have been the first openly gay person to have done so in Ireland. If that had turned into winning the presidential election on October 27, Norris would have been the first openly gay person elected to a presidency in Europe.
Today, Norris announced at a press conference that he is stepping down from the presidential race. He cited a burgeoning scandal that has surfaced in recent weeks concerning his former lover, Ezra Nawi.
Nawi was accused of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy in 1992, and Norris wrote a letter asking for clemency for his former lover, using paper from the parliament to reaffirm his position of power. The plea was unveiled in late July of this year, and the Irish blogosphere and media exploded about the letter.
Today, Norris admitted he was wrong in submitting the letter, showing favoritism for his Nawi. He cited the loss of control that has resulted from the media storm surrounding the plea letter as his reason for stepping down. He said:
At the beginning of my campaign I pledged that I would fight exclusively on what I saw as my strengths and what I could contribute to the welfare of the Irish people. I believe that I have done so with the dignity and decorum that would be rightly expected of any presidential candidate.
It has always been a principle of mine not to yield control of my life or my principles to others.
The recent frenzy threatened to erode that principle and it is now time for me to reassert as far as possible control of my life and destiny.
Norris also addressed his unique status as an openly gay presidential nomination hopeful in Ireland. He acknowledged the significance in his speech today:
I have also demonstrated that it is now possible for a gay person to be seen as a viable candidate for the highest office in the land.
I would have loved to have had the opportunity as president of Ireland to extend that to the service of the entire people but that is no longer possible.
The election is now entering a new phase of reality and I hope that it will be conducted in a way that is dignified and respectful of the office of President and of the remaining candidates.
The entire speech is available on Norris' website.