THOSE who, for whatever reason, prefer their romantic ties to be with people of the same sex are today widely allowed to follow their inclinations not only freely, but, in many jurisdictions, with society’s protection against discrimination.

They make important contributions in every sphere of human endeavour — from business to the arts, theatre, sport, literature, science, medicine, politics, the media, theatre, music and films. It has, of course, long been the case, dating back to ancient times and including giants such Augustus Caesar, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, James Boswell, Francis Bacon and so on.

History suggests that homosexuality, as it became known only in the late 19th century, was widely practised and accepted thousands of years ago in ancient Greece and Rome.

Then came Leviticus 18:22, which appeared to stridently condemn only male homosexuality. Perhaps the concept of intimate relations between females was simply beyond the imagination of the prophets. In any event, this is what Leviticus says: “With a male you are not to lie (after the manner of) lying with a woman; it is an abomination.”

There is no shortage of furious debate over the interpretation of Leviticus, but it has been the foundation for centuries of discrimination against and harassment of those who seek love and fulfilment with members of the same sex.

There were many more, both male and female, of what we today term gay and lesbian individuals who excelled in a variety of fields, but the price of “coming out”,  as the matter of public disclosure is now delicately referred to, was too high in the face of widespread disapproval of such lifestyles.

Almost 60 years ago I knowingly encountered my first gay adult. He was the film critic on the Natal Daily News, a charming and highly cultivated man who was very kind to me, an 18-year-old cub journalist. I shall always be in his debt for assignments he gave me to cover new movies, because I would otherwise never have been able to afford them.

He was tactile but gave never the slightest hint of “coming on” to me, although even had he I would, in my innocence, probably not have noticed it. Since then I have enjoyed the companionship of colleagues and friends, both male and female, of the same-sex persuasion over the decades.

Today there is growing pressure in many Western societies to recognise same-sex marriages. Many same-sex couples, including Elton John and his partner, David Furnish, have children.

In the US, nine states plus Washington DC recognise same-sex marriages notwithstanding the powerful opposition of the Catholic Church, to which I belong.

There can be little argument against the desirability of a child being raised by two caring parents approved by the relevant authorities rather than in an orphanage, however well run it might be.

But although same-sex couples have every right to their lifestyles and will have to pass scrutiny as desirable parents, some will argue in good faith that being brought up in a same-sex family is against the natural order of things. Certainly, mere observation and the biological methods devised by nature (or whatever) for the preservation of species suggest that instructing children that same-sex matrimony is the same as that of heterosexuals flies in the face of reason.

This is not to say for a moment that same-sex couples do not make caring and responsible parents. As it is, the average success rate for heterosexual parenting is hardly something to write home about.

Thus, as same-sex relationships are increasingly, and appropriately, accepted in society, it is also fair to expect same-sex parents to be frank with their children that such arrangements are neither the norm nor ultimately desirable — even if they are loving relationships.

* This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times