MBE for former DUP mayor who said Hurricane Katrina was God's revenge for a gay parade
A controversial DUP politician who received an MBE this week says he stands by his remarks that gay people were to blame for a hurricane that killed 1,300 people.
Maurice Mills was made a Member of the British Empire in the Queen's New Year Honours list for services to local government.
But the decision has sparked an angry backlash over the veteran councillor's comments in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans.
He has also been reported as saying Aids was the result of the "filthy practice of sodomy".
Gay rights campaigners have criticised the move and an online petition has been launched to have the award stripped from him.
Mr Mills, a councillor and former mayor of Ballymena, refused to apologise for any offence his comments caused.
He said Katrina, which left 1,300 dead, was God's revenge for an annual gay pride event called Southern Decadence.
"The media failed to report that the hurricane occurred just two days prior to the annual homosexual event called the Southern Decadence festival, which the previous year had attracted an estimated 125,000 people," said Mr Mills at the time of the 2005 tragedy.
"Surely this is a warning to nations where such wickedness is increasingly promoted and practised."
Mr Mills yesterday told the Belfast Telegraph he stood by his comments and would not be apologising.
"I expressed myself at that time and my stand is on the word of God," he said.
"I'm not interested in what the world says, I'm interested in what God says. I stand by what God's word says, it's as simple as that.
"I would not apologise for anything I have quoted from the word of God, I certainly would not. Definitely not."
The Rainbow Project, which works on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, criticised the award, given Mr Mills' contentious comments.
Its director John O'Doherty said: "The decision to award Mr Mills an MBE in spite of the comments he made in 2005 is an indication of how little things have changed in Northern Ireland and to a lesser extent across the UK.
"Equality is a word we heard a lot about in 2014. A particular debate has arisen around the rights of people with strongly held religious beliefs to discriminate in the provision of goods, facilities and services towards lesbian, gay and bisexual people. The move has been proposed by Paul Givan MLA.
"There are those who feel that there has been a shift towards inequality for those who believe it is wrong to be gay and believe it should be acceptable to discriminate on this basis. These two issues are linked quite simply because Mr Givan and Mr Mills are both public representatives of the DUP.
"The Rainbow Project has reaffirmed its commitment to work with all faith groups to engage, learn and address the issues that exist between our communities. We hope that political and faith leaders choose to engage in this conversation and show true leadership, rather than insulting our community from the sidelines."
Health Minister Jim Wells, a DUP colleague of Mr Mills, tweeted his congratulations yesterday.
Mr Wells said: "Delighted to learn that Alderman Maurice Mills has received an MBE . Thoroughly deserved after 40 years as a Ballymena councillor."
Mr Mills said he had been taken aback by the award.
"It was a surprise but you are so involved in your work you don't realise who appreciates it and who doesn't," he said.
"I've certainly worked very, very hard. It's taken a tremendous chunk of my life. I couldn't do what I've done without my family."
A DUP spokesman said: "Maurice Mills has given a lifetime of public service to the community and it is appropriate it is recognised by the honours system."
A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office declined to comment on the controversy.
Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005. A state of emergency was declared as flood waters reached heights of up to 20 feet.
Maurice Mills said that Katrina, which killed 1,300 people, was God's revenge for an annual gay pride event called Southern Decadence. "The media failed to report that the hurricane occurred just two days prior to the annual homosexual event called the Southern Decadence festival, which the previous year had attracted an estimated 125,000 people," said Mr Mills in 2005. "Surely this is a warning to nations where such wickedness is increasingly promoted and practised." Mr Mills has never retracted the comments.