More support in NI for gay relationships

More support in NI for gay relationships

Attitudes towards same-sex relationships in Northern Ireland have softened over the past two decades, according to researchers at Queen's University Belfast.

Interpreting data from the 2012 NI Life and Times Survey (NILT), which uses a random sample of 1,200 people living across Northern Ireland, the researchers found a growing tolerance of same-sex relationships among the people sampled.The proportion of survey participants who believe that same-sex relations are "always wrong", for example, dropped from 76% in 1989 to 28% in 2012.The survey was carried out by ARK, a joint resource between Queen's University and the University of Ulster. The survey records public attitudes to a wide range of social issues.Researchers Siobhan McAlister and Nicola Carr, from Queen's School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, and youth worker Gail Neill, have been interpreting the trends from the NILT and will be discussing their findings at a public seminar at NICVA in Belfast on Tuesday.Speaking ahead of the event, Dr Nicola Carr, said: "Over half of the survey's respondents expressed support for same-sex marriage, however, over one third disapproved of gay adoption and also to lesbians having access to fertility treatment on the same basis as heterosexual women. At least one in four people did not believe that a lesbian or gay parent or parents with a child constituted a 'family'."The survey also found that, in general, females and those aged under 65 were more likely to report positive attitudes to same-sex relationships."People who viewed homosexuality as a 'choice' tended to hold more negative views than those who believed sexual orientation cannot be changed.Dr Siobhan McAlisterDr Siobhan McAlister said that in terms of parenting and family life, attitudes were found to have changed less.She added: "Respondents declaring a Protestant affiliation were more likely to report negative attitudes towards same-sex marriage than Catholics, or people declaring 'no religion'. For example, while the majority of those who presented as having no religion (74%) or as Catholic (66%) supported same-sex marriage, less than half (45%) of those defining as Protestant were in support of it."Beliefs about homosexuality were also found to be influential. The researchers also found that knowing someone who was gay or lesbian tended to promote more positive attitudes. Between 2005 and 2012, the percentage of people who knew someone who was lesbian or gay rose from 46% to 70%."Support among respondents for gay marriage tended to decrease with age.While 74% of the youngest age-group were supportive of gay marriage, this figure fell to 30% in the oldest age-group.On the issue of gay adoption, the research found some softening of attitudes. In 1989, 11% of people surveyed thought that lesbians should be allowed to adopt a baby under the same conditions as heterosexual couples and 5% believed this in relation to gay couples. In the most recent survey, the figures had risen to 40% and 36% respectively.Despite the softening of attitudes towards same-sex relationships, marriage and adoption, the NILT survey reveals that a preference for the 'traditional' heterosexual family remains.Ms Neill told UTV: "Now almost three quarters of those who took part in the survey defined themselves as not being prejudiced against lesbian and gay people."Interestingly, we have also seen a substantial rise in the number of people who know someone who is gay or lesbian and this is likely to have impacted positively on those attitudes."I think the attitudes within the research have certainly softened, that is encouraging those trends that are coming forward, but we do need to remember that significant numbers of people within the research held less accepting or supportive attitudes and that the actual lived experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Northern Ireland may not always feel as progressive as the research headlines suggest."For example, other research has indicated a continued level of homophobia, a lack of access to services and higher levels of mental ill health for people in Northern Ireland."


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