Gay activist's 'King Billy was a homosexual' claim sparks furore
A leading gay rights activist has raised the temperature in the row over homosexuality by claiming there was evidence King Billy had male lovers.
Peter Tatchell highlighted the controversial allegation as evidence of hypocrisy over homosexuality in Northern Ireland, but he was condemned by unionists for setting out to deliberately cause offence.
The campaigner will tonight deliver the Amnesty International Pride Lecture in Belfast.
Mr Tatchell’s appearance at the city’s week-long gay pride festival comes after the DUP’s Iris Robinson sparked controversy by branding homosexuality an abomination.
Mrs Robinson, wife of First Minister Peter Robinson, has condemned all attacks on the gay community, but Mr Tatchell said: "It is particularly hypocritical for unionist politicians to play the homophobic card when their hero William of Orange had male lovers."
King Billy was married, but some academics have pointed to his promotion of young men to high office as evidence of bisexuality.
A DUP spokesman dismissed the allegation.
"This is the kind of deliberately offensive and provocative comment and shock tactics that he has used in the past," he said.
Mrs Robinson sparked controversy when she said that, in line with her Christian beliefs, she sees homosexuality as an abomination.
The Strangford MP has repeatedly denied her remarks were homophobic, insisting she had Christian love for gay people themselves and condemned anyone who would attack people for their sexuality.
But Mr Tatchell targeted Mrs Robinson for heavy criticism ahead of his Belfast speech.
"Iris Robinson’s remarks are part of a pattern of homophobia that seems to characterise sections of Northern Irish society," he said.
"It is only a year ago that Ian Paisley jnr made upsetting outbursts against gay people.
"Iris Robinson claims homosexuality is not natural, yet same-sexual relations are found in every human society and every animal species.
"That seems pretty natural to me.”
Ian Paisley jnr caused controversy by saying he was repulsed by gays, but he and other senior DUP figures have defended their right to express their moral opposition to homosexuality, while also maintaining their condemnation of homophobic violence.
Mr Tatchell has campaigned internationally and he warned that his experience has been that public comments against homosexuality can result in physical attacks on gay people.
"It is shameful that over 70 nations still outlaw homosexuality, that several countries retain the death penalty for same-sex relationships, and that none of the international human rights conventions explicitly guarantee gay equality and protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
"It is time the UN passed a convention prohibiting homophobic discrimination and acknowledging that sexual rights are human rights.
Online encyclopedia outlines homosexual accusations
The online encyclopedia Wikipedia gives details of the the homosexual accusations made against King Billy.
It states: "During the 1690s rumours of William's homosexual inclinations grew and led to the publication of many satirical pamphlets. He had several male favourites, including two Dutch courtiers to whom he granted English dignities: Hans Willem Bentinck became Earl of Portland, and Arnold Joost van Keppel was created Earl of Albemarle.
"These close relationships with men and the lack of mistresses led William's enemies to suggest that he preferred homosexual relationships. "
Further reading at Wikipedia