National News

Feb 11, 2014 7:38 AM by AP

Drag queen's speech fuels Irish gay rights debate

DUBLIN (AP) - Ireland's top drag queen, Miss Panti Bliss, has captured the attention of his nation in a fashion never seen before - with a stiletto-heeled message that his homeland remains full of Catholic bigots who make him feel ashamed to be himself.

The proclamations of Panti, a.k.a. 45-year-old Rory O'Neill, have led to a social media storm in Ireland, where homosexuality itself was outlawed until 1993 but attitudes appear to be softening rapidly. Civil partnerships for gays were legalized in 2010; a national referendum to permit gay marriage looms next year.

O'Neill's impassioned oration this month to Ireland's national theater - delivered while dressed as Panti's Hollywood bombshell persona - has become a YouTube sensation in Ireland and increasingly worldwide, with subtitled translations in a dozen languages.

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