Friday 24 January 2020

Eoin Neylon: Gays deserve equal rights -- not bigoted attacks and smears

Eoin Neylon

The refusal of the State to treat everyone in the same manner is state-sponsored bigotry

Having read Kevin Myers's article published recently in this paper, entitled "Every single human decision has a consequence -- so remember that the next time you vote for someone's rights", I felt that there were certain comments and points of misinformation he presented that could not go unchallenged.

As the author of the motions on same-sex marriage and adoption rights at the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis earlier this month, I feel outraged by Mr Myers's belief that the party's decision to back the policy of equal rights for all in this area was a frivolous decision.

Had he actually looked into it, he would have found that the debate was an informed, respectful one where many of the "facts" that Mr Myers used in his article were outlined as being inaccurate, misguided, or just plain bigoted.

First of all, the correlation between gay rights and the HIV rate in the US that Mr Myers attempts to create is plain wrong. HIV rates were at their peak in the 1980s in that country and have been falling steadily since. By stating otherwise, he would appear to be oblivious of, or is simply ignoring, the fact that most states were forced to decriminalise male homosexuality at a much later date. Fourteen states as late as 2003 (Lawrence v Texas). In fact, it is widely accepted that the main contributor to the HIV rate is intravenous drug use, which is responsible for the majority of localised spikes of the rate.

But why rely on data from abroad when we have our own here in Ireland? In 1993, the Fianna Fail -- Labour government decriminalised male homosexuality and since then no marked increase outside of what would be expected from drug use patterns has been witnessed to the HIV rate in Ireland. Comparing the rates of deaths from war and this disease is a simple smear tactic on the LGBT community.

Secondly, Mr Myers seems to believe, or would lead us to believe, that lesbian couples seem destined to raise career criminals if given the opportunity. This is again a facile argument he puts forward. Many of the 90pc of those surveyed in US prisons of which he speaks come from broken homes where domestic violence, drug use, poor education standards and other issues are prevalent.

Single parents can, and by in large do, raise some of society's best and brightest, in the same way that heterosexual, gay and lesbian couples do. In fact, a major study compiled by the head of the Department of Social and Developmental Psychology at Cambridge University, Michael Lamb, found that the children raised by couples of various sexual orientations by and large did not show any marked difference from one another.

They were equally well capable in education; sport; tolerances; behaviour, and indeed; in later life, they showed no notable differences in sexual orientation compared with the rest of their peers. Dr Lamb's conclusion was that gender of the parent was not the driving factor, more the relationship the parent had with their partner and with the child.

What is of upmost bad taste though, is the attempt to somehow link same-sex marriage and adoption rights to abortion. By the simple mechanics of biology, the issue of abortion is not one that concerns the LGBT community as it does the rest of society. This is again a tactic to try to deflect the issue on to more extreme, divisive lines. In this modern republic it is galling that we are still so hung up on superficial differences. What does it matter how we look, what gender we are, or what religion we may practise?

Nor should it matter who we love. The refusal of the State to treat everyone in the same manner is to me state-sponsored bigotry and I find this outrageous and something I cannot stand by and say nothing about. This has to be rule by the people, of the people and for all the people.

Finally, I would like to address Mr Myers's use of the term liberal. He and many other conservative commentators like to throw the term around with negative connotations such as unthinking or foolhardy, while simultaneously harking on constantly about liberal failings.

Whereas I will clearly admit that a conservative person may be just as right as a liberal person on any and all matters, I draw the line at painting an entire section of the population in such a negative light. His use of the term liberal ignores the fact that, as has been pointed out time and again, liberals ended slavery in western society, gave the vote to women and different races, gave equal access to education and soon, I hope, will see equal status in the eyes of the State afforded to all citizens of this country, regardless of who they love.

I have no qualms in calling myself -- the same way I call myself a practising Catholic and heterosexual -- a proud liberal.

Irish Independent

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