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Same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland backed by leading psychologists' society

Published 04/08/2016

Kerb painted in rainbow colours outside a bar in Belfast during the annual Pride festival
Kerb painted in rainbow colours outside a bar in Belfast during the annual Pride festival

The body representing psychologists in Northern Ireland has supported the campaign for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Medical experts once recommended "aversion therapy" - which included electric shock treatment and brainwashing - in an effort to convert homosexuals.

Members of the British Psychological Society in Northern Ireland today avoided attempting to change the minorities on the basis that they can be "cured".

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK or Ireland where same-sex marriage is not recognised and a campaign for change is growing.

Society chair Dr Barbara McConnell said: "During Belfast Pride it is so important that we call for equality for those who feel undervalued and excluded to prevent potentially harmful impacts on our LGBT community here."

She called for greater awareness of the processes involved in creating stigma and oppression within society.

"The society in Northern Ireland values diversity and we must use our influence, informed by research evidence, to promote visibility and inclusion rather than reinforce stigmatising attitudes surrounding LGBT community in Northern Ireland."

In the 1950s and 1960s, behavioural therapy was used to try to "cure" gay men in the UK.

Those convicted of homosexual a cts were routinely given electric shock treatment, hallucinogenic drugs and subjected to brainwashing techniques.

One form of treatment was aversion therapy of the kind featured in the film, A Clockwork Orange.

Men were shown pictures of naked men and given electric shocks or drugs to make them vomit.

Once the pain ended they were shown pictures of naked women or even taken out on "dates" with nurses.

The society now believes all so-called conversion therapy is ineffective. Clinical psychologists do not view these forms of sexual preferences as 'disorders' and do not see an individual's sexual orientations as something that can or should be changed.

The organisation said: "The endorsement of Love Equality, a campaign for civil marriage equality, is consistent with this affirmative practice understanding in psychology, which promotes a sense of safety and belonging, for those who identify as LGBT."

Although gay people can enter into a civil partnership in Northern Ireland marriage is denied and the mainstream churches maintain that the ceremony is between a man and a woman.

Although the Stormont Assembly has repeatedly refused to legislate for gay marriage a campaign has been growing to allow the practice.

In 2008 former First Minister Peter Robinson's wife, Iris, created an outcry when she told the BBC homosexuality was an "abomination" and that with help, gay people could be "turned around".

Earlier this week Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who is engaged to an Irish woman, endorsed the campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

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