A gay rights advocate has called on Peter Robinson to clarify his party’s position on gay rights after one of his councillors called for homosexuality to be made illegal.
John O’Doherty, director of the Rainbow project, said: “It is imperative that the First Minister Peter Robinson, whose Department has responsibility for equality, clarifies whether or not his party is interested in achieving a truly shared society or wishes to bring Northern Ireland back to the bad old days.”
He was reacting to comments by Paul McClean, the DUP chair of Magherafelt District council, carried recently in the Belfast Telegraph.
Mr McClean said: “As a Christian who believes in the stance of the bible I believe it (homosexuality) is morally wrong. It is spiritually wrong and I don’t think it should be legal.”
However, he added: “I believe that those people are human beings and need to be treated as such.”
Earlier he had told a council debate on same sex marriage that homosexuality was an abomination, quoting the Old Testament.
Same sex male relationships were legalised here in October 1982 following a European Court of Human Rights case brought by Jeff Dudgeon.
The DUP campaigned against the reform under he banner “Save Ulster From Sodomy.”
Although it was ultimately defeated by the Dudgeon judgment, the campaign did succeed in delaying the legislation which had been introduced in England and Wales in 1967.
In 2004, all DUP MPs, including Mr Robinson, voted against civil partnerships for gays when the measure was passed in Westminster. In 2008, after becoming First Minister, he told the BBC that homosexuality was against Christian teachings.
A spokesman declined to comment on the DUP’s current stance on homosexual law but did say “our party policy has been and remains that we support the current definition of marriage”.
Jeff Dudgeon is currently a member of the UUP.
“This exposes a fault line in the DUP between the ultra religious wing who haven’t adapted their views in relation to discrimination and the modernising wing,” he said.
“Councillor McClean is whistling in the wind if he wants the law changed back.”