Ian Paisley's brother-in-law quits DUP over gay councillor Alison Bennington
The late Ian Paisley's brother-in-law and election agent has quit the DUP over the selection of openly gay Alison Bennington as a candidate in the local council elections.
The Irish News has reported that Rev James Beggs has decided to leave the DUP over the issue, saying he "wasn't happy with the direction the party was going in".
Rev Beggs was the minister of Ballymena Free Presbyterian Church from 1966-2000, he is now retired but holds the honorary position of Minister Emeritus at the church.
The 84-year-old is married to Ian Paisley's sister Margaret who he said has never been a member of the party. He acted as the former First Minister's election agent on a number of occasions.
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Rev Beggs said the selection of Ms Bennington as a candidate had been the final straw which caused him to leave the party.
Ms Bennington was the DUP's first openly gay candidate and made history when she was elected to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council earlier this month.
"I resigned when this news came out. I have to do what I feel I must do as a Christian minister," Rev Beggs told the Irish News.
He said that he had been a "paid-up member" of the party until recently, but felt that he had no choice but to resign.
Rev Beggs had previously said that the decision to run Ms Bennington was "contrary to the word of God".
"This decision to run somebody LGBT, I'm totally opposed to that," he said.
"The word of God outlines the fact that it is against homosexuality – that's quite clear from scripture."
Rev Begg's resignation comes after former DUP Health Minister Jim Wells said that Ian Paisley would be "aghast" at the decision to run an openly gay person as a DUP candidate.
Mr Wells said that a number of party members and representatives at all levels of the party were upset by the decision.
While the DUP currently opposes same-sex marriage, party leader Arlene Foster said that Ms Bennington was a "committed unionist" and that's why she joined the DUP.
However she did acknowledge that a number of party members were "uncomfortable" with the decision.
The DUP has historically been seen as hostile towards the LGBT community. In the late 1970's then leader Mr Paisley led a 'Save Ulster from Sodomy' campaign in an attempt to prevent the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland.
Belfast Telegraph Digital