Gay Marriage – My Op-Ed comments published in the Eveing Herald on Wednesday 5th September

Marriage is defined by culture and has varied as an institution over millennia. The complexity of marriage arrangements is clear since ancient times. Same-sex marriage existed in Ancient Greece and China. Civil Partnerships are part of Western society beginning in Denmark in 1989, extending to Ireland in 2010. Civil partners must be treated in the same way as married couples under the law. Culture in Ireland recognises marriage as a formal contract between members of the opposite sex and monogamy is the expected outcome.

Forms of homosexuality are widespread and normal in the animal kingdom. Homosexuality is normal in humans because the prevalence of homosexuality is likely in the range 5% to 10% of the population. In western society, as late as 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. So Civil Partnership or in some countries Same Sex Marriage is a long way from “therapy”, illegality and prosecution.

The spectrum of sexuality is a continuum between exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality and everything in between. Gender identity is usually fixed for nearly all children by the age of 2.5 years. Most gay men regard themselves as men and most lesbians regard themselves as women. Those who do not develop a definite gender identity usually have psychological problems as a result.

Gender orientation refers to personal preference for intimate contact including sex. Orientation can be complex and may be relatively fluid in some people, not being simply same or opposite sex. Are those factors which direct and influence gender orientation known? Biological studies on the “causes” of homosexuality are inconclusive. Studies have claimed that there may be an association of homosexuality with specific areas of brain anatomy, immune proteins, genetic linkage, intrauterine hormones and other chemicals and human pheromone body odour which drive physical attraction but these do not prove cause and effect. How much of the variation in gender orientation is due to biological factors is currently impossible to quantify and is likely to vary from person to person.

Psychological factors play an important role in each person’s development of sexuality. As personal identity evolves through adolescence, the realisation of sexuality, personal relationships and partner choice solidifies. The expression of sexuality is highly influenced by what the child sees as sexual behaviour around them and what opportunities for sexual experimentation present themselves. Family interaction and other such experiences are very important. Thus it is clear that the environment plays a role in the development of all sexuality – how large a role is unclear but again is likely to vary with each individual.

Equality is a word that is mightily abused. It is a myth because we are all different. Society tries to equalise access and opportunity by law but difference always overcomes the effort no matter how well meaning the attempts. The Olympics games are a celebration of inequality as is football, the current mass obsession.

The unions of gays and lesbians are different and unequal to those of heterosexuals because of the likelihood of the procreation of children in the latter. Gays and lesbians may have children before pair bonding but unless a third party becomes involved through sperm donation, surrogacy or other technology, children will not result.

This leads us to adoption. The state must place children first. Because of the potential influence of gender role modelling on adolescent development and the uncertainty of the role of psychological and behavioural factors in the genesis of homosexual behaviours in humans, I believe that the state must err on the side of caution with regard to marriage equality.

There seems to me to be a hierarchy of preference in placing children for adoption. All things being equal, heterosexual couples should come first. Gays, lesbians and others must not be prevented from adopting the millions of abandoned and neglected children world-wide. But marriage equality will likely result in the courts at some point in the future being asked to adjudicate on the equality of single sex and opposite sex couples in an adoption dispute. Leaving well enough alone with Civil Partnership is the sensible conclusion. This is why I say No!