DUP must apologise for decades of 'hurt and pain' - LGBT people wary of Arlene Foster's outreach
Arlene Foster must apologise for the decades of "hurt and pain" that her party has inflicted on the LGBT community, a prominent gay rights advocate has said.
Gavin Boyd of the Rainbow Project has welcomed the DUP leader's decision to attend an event next week that will pay tribute to the LGBT community's contribution to society here.
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But writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, he also warned that she must acknowledge it is only the start of a healing process and many people will find her attendance "difficult to accept".
"It is right that she attends. But she should not see this as an end in itself but the start of a process of reconciliation," he said.
"Arlene must apologise for the hurt and pain caused by her party."
The group's policy and advocacy manager said the former First Minister "must not engage in whataboutery or chastise" people for criticisms of her party at the PinkNews event.
"DUP members have called us 'poofs', 'perverts', 'abominations', 'repugnant', 'loathsome', 'wicked' and 'vile'," he said.
"We have been told that we are worse than those who sexually abuse children and that hurricanes have been sent by God in judgment of our existence."
Mr Boyd said Mrs Foster must recognise that members of his community feel "antipathy" towards her party "because they have consistently mocked, maligned and marginalised us".
He said the internet is full of examples of the "bile, scorn and malice" which some DUP representatives have consistently shown to the LGBT community without "sanction or censure" since the party was founded by the Rev Ian Paisley in 1971.
He cast up the party's opposition to the LGBT community including the 1977 Save Ulster From Sodomy campaign which sought to prevent the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and criticised its ongoing opposition to same-sex marriage.
Jon Tonge, author and professor of politics at the University of Liverpool, said Mrs Foster's "charm offensive" is designed to alleviate fears that the DUP's social conservatism could weaken the Union.
He said the party's moral stance could alienate the wider British public, especially younger voters who tend to be more supportive of gay marriage and abortion.
While he argues that a crisis could emerge if they did vote, he also said it is a myth to think that young people view the DUP as "dinosaurs" or "untouchable".