Attitudes towards same-sex relationships in Northern Ireland have softened over the past two decades, according to researchers at Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster.
Interpreting data from the 2012 Northern Ireland 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 (or lesbian and gay) relationships among the people sampled.
The proportion of survey participants who believe that same-sex relations are “always wrong”, for example, dropped from 76 per cent in 1989 to 28 per cent 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 25th February.
Speaking on BBC Northern Ireland's Good Morning Ulster 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.”
Dr 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 per cent) or as Catholic (66 per cent) supported same-sex marriage, less than half (45 per cent) of those defining as Protestant were in support of it.The Queering the Family: Attitudes Towards Lesbian and Gay Relationships and Families in Northern Ireland seminar takes place at NICVA, 61 Duncairn Gardens, Belfast, on February 25, from 12pm-1pm, with lunch afterwards. The seminar is free and everyone is welcome, but places should be booked at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning 028 71675513.