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Unionist politicians swimming against a secular tide

By David Gordon

What is it with unionist politicians and controversies about gay issues?

UUP Antrim mayor Adrian Watson was rejected as a General Election candidate earlier this year, after it was recalled he had suggested gay couples would not be welcome at his family's bed and breakfast.

The DUP's Ian Paisley jnr was condemned in 2007 for feeling the need to declare himself “repulsed” by homosexuality.

Twelve months later, his then party colleague Iris Robinson must have been amazed at the backlash over her infamous “abomination” outburst.

Now leadership hopeful Tom Eliott has added his name to the list. It will be interesting to see if there is more flak over his saying no to a GAA match than to a Gay Pride parade.

Mr Elliott is of course entitled to his views. They may well be in tune with the UUP's traditional core, although that is a declining market.

Northern Ireland is a much more secular place these days, and the attitude of “live and let love” is increasingly prevalent.

Many more people are now open about their sexuality, meaning a great many more have friends, relatives and colleagues who are gay.

And they all have votes — a commodity the Ulster Unionist Party has been shedding for many years.

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