Opposing gay marriage is not necessarily a bigoted position claims Breda O'Brien, a writer for the IrishTimes.

Writing in response to an article written by Fintan O'Toole, who claimed that opposing gay marriage is bigotry motivated by revulsion for gay people, O'Brien challenges his position saying "Thoughtful conservatives are not bigoted, or intellectually inferior, or vile: they just see the balance of values differently."

She references Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, who "believes that liberals and conservatives constantly misunderstand each other, using the same words but meaning entirely different things."

O'Brien writes: "Take marriage. Fintan believes it is a personal relationship, to be maintained as long as romantic love endures. But if marriage is simply a personal relationship, why does the State have any interest in it?

"I believe marriage is a solemn covenant, in which society has a major stake because it provides the most stable environment for bringing up children, a physical and spiritual expression of the couple’s love.

She says that Fintan believes there are sufficient differences between the sexes to justify lobbying for more women in politics, but on the other hand, to believe, as conservatives do, that there could be gender differences in parenting is "vile."

O'Brien goes on to say: "According to Haidt, liberals prize values like personal freedom and choice, equality, fairness and sharing above all others. Conservatives value them too, but they also respect loyalty, a sense of the sacred, tradition and authority. The last three tend to bring liberals out in hives, being perceived as either irrational, or as curtailing individual freedom."

O'Brien believes "A child needs both a mother and a father. It is not too long ago that the expression “a motherless child” was shorthand for devastating loss. Fathers matter equally. There are times when these ideals cannot be met, and then people deserve our support, not censure. People usually do their very best, and most times, the child turns out fine.

"It is an entirely different thing to legislate to declare that having both a mother and father has no intrinsic value."

She writes: "Even though I believe passionately that there are important gender differences that matter in parenting, I was not going to write about gay marriage, for fear that I would harm a young gay or lesbian person.

"But I changed my mind, because now, not to do so would be to be completely lacking in courage, and to bow to a consensus that is proud of lacking respect for the arguments of others."

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