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DUP councillor Spence shows support for rainbow flag at Army HQ

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The rainbow flag flown at Army headquarters in Northern Ireland

The rainbow flag flown at Army headquarters in Northern Ireland

The MOD building in London was lit up in rainbow colours

The MOD building in London was lit up in rainbow colours

The rainbow flag flown at Army headquarters in Northern Ireland

A DUP councillor has celebrated the flying of the rainbow flag at the Army headquarters in Northern Ireland to mark the 20th anniversary of the ending of the ban on gay people serving in the armed forces.

Belfast councillor Guy Spence last night said that he wanted to send out a message that members of the LGBTQ community had "served with distinction in the military".

The DUP has opposed councils across Northern Ireland flying the rainbow flag.

Ards and North Down councillor Tom Smith, who went against his party to support lighting up his local town hall in rainbow colours, was deselected by the party last year.

Mr Spence tweeted on Tuesday: "Today the MoD building in London was lit up alongside the rainbow flag flown here in NI to celebrate 20 years since our LGBT community were legally allowed to serve in the armed forces. I hope today has given people a chance to reflect on how wrong homophobic behaviour is!"

The DUP councillor told the Belfast Telegraph: "I wanted to celebrate the lifting of the archaic rule that banned people from the armed services on the basis of their sexuality. Until the year 2000, gay people were dishonourably discharged and stripped of their medals.

"I know many gay men and women who have served with distinction in the military. They are people who have shown great courage and I wanted to pay tribute to them."

Mr Spence said he strongly supported a legal challenge by Falklands veteran John Ousalice (68), a radio operator who did six tours of duty in Northern Ireland. "He was forced out of the Royal Navy because he was bisexual," he said. "The MoD last month admitted his treatment was unacceptable and agreed to return the medal taken from him.

"If any LGBT member of the armed forces from Northern Ireland experienced similar treatment, I would like them to contact me. I will support and represent them in any challenge they make."

Last summer, gay DUP councillor, Alison Bennington, voted against the flying of the rainbow flag at Antrim and Newtownabbey Council offices to mark Pride celebrations. DUP councillors in Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council also challenged a decision to fly a rainbow flag on council premises.

And DUP members of Causeway Coast and Glens Council also walked out of a council meeting in apparent protest at a proposal to fly the flag.

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Belfast Telegraph