Ulster Unionist peer Ken Maginnis has said he stands firmly behind controversial on-air comments in which he referred to gay marriage as “unnatural and deviant behaviour”.
Lord Maginnis told the Belfast Telegraph he stood by his words — referring to “unnatural physical acts” by “deviants”.
“Of course I do. Is it natural? The answer is it is not natural,” he added.
“I’m not worried. These are people that seem to take some pride expressing their particular rights. I disagree with those rights and that deviance.”
Following his outburst on The Nolan Show, his party quickly distanced themselves from the peer and former MP’s outspoken views.
“Lord Maginnis was speaking in a personal capacity without our knowledge or permission and his comments do not reflect Ulster Unionist Party policy,” it said in a statement.
The party also sent an email to its members which said they must “receive clearance from the party Press office” before speaking to the media “on any subject”.
The row around gay marriage came after an Equality Commission report found levels of prejudice and bigotry against gay people had risen in Northern Ireland over the last six years.
Among his comments Lord Maginnis described gay relationships as a “rung on the ladder” towards bestiality.
John O’Doherty of the Rainbow Project — one of Northern Ireland’s largest gay rights groups — described Lord Maginnis’s words as “reprehensible”.
“We are calling on Lord Maginnis to retract his prejudiced and uninformed comments and apologise for the damage he has caused,” he said.
“At a time when an Equality Commission survey has found that negative attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Northern Ireland have significantly hardened, it is reprehensible that a senior politician should claim that people in loving and committed relationships are ‘unnatural’ and ‘deviant’.”
On Twitter, the UUP’s Basil McCrea said he did not support Lord Maginnis’s comments, describing them as “increasingly erratic and ill advised”.
Following the outburst many took to social networks such as Twitter to voice their strong opposition to the former Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP’s words.
Alliance chief whip Stewart Dickson MLA yesterday called on the Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt to take disciplinary action against Lord Maginnis for his “homophobic comments”.
“I was appalled by what Lord Maginnis said. To draw a comparison between anybody who is gay and bestiality is outrageous,” he added.
A UUP source last night said that the Alliance Party had been forced to deal with its own issues surrounding gay marriage, after an ex-party councillor, Seamus Close, brought forward a proposal in 2005 to ban gay couples from holding civil partnership ceremonies in Lisburn Borough Council’s marriage suite.