DUP ‘must clarify stance’ on gay issues

A previous Foyle Pride Parade making its way across Craigavon Bridge into the city centre.

A previous Foyle Pride Parade making its way across Craigavon Bridge into the city centre.

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Derry gay support organisation, The Rainbow Project has called on the DUP to clarify the party line on gay issues following the resignation of Health Minister Jim Wells.

The Rainbow Project- the North’s largest support organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender people- has welcomed the decision by Mr Wells to resign from his post following what the organisation termed “illogical and irrational comments about same-sex parenting” at an election hustings in Downpatrick.

Health Minister Jim Wells.

Health Minister Jim Wells.

Director of the Rainbow Project in Derry and Belfast John O’Doherty said questions remain as to the position of Mr Well’s colleagues and party on issues relating to LGBT people.

The County Derry man said: “The most recent controversy surrounding Jim Wells MLA has shown that there is a difference of opinion on some of these issues within the DUP.

“The DUP as a party however, has never voted in support of any LGBT equality matters and as far as we know are still opposed to the decriminalisation of sex between two men.”

Encouraging the DUP to use yesterday’s Assembly debate on Equal Marriage to clarify its position on LGBT issues, Mr O’Doherty said they should also “use the opportunity to apologise for the immense hurt, fear and suffering caused by their members’ remarks and positions over the last 40 years”.

Mickey Doherty and his dance troupe make an arresting sight as they passed through Shipquay Gate on their way to Guildhall Square during a previous  Foyle Pride Parade in Derry.

Mickey Doherty and his dance troupe make an arresting sight as they passed through Shipquay Gate on their way to Guildhall Square during a previous Foyle Pride Parade in Derry.

Health Minister Jim Wells resigned from his post after his position was described as “untenable” by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness over the weekend.

It followed his comments linking adoption by gay couples to child abuse, which sparked an angry backlash across the North and beyond. Mr Wells himself said he was resigning to tend to his wife Grace, who is currently suffering from a serious illness.

In a statement issued yesterday morning, the South Down DUP MLA said: “Those who know my family and I, know the last three months have been the toughest of our lives as we watched my wife, Grace, suffer two successive strokes and battle through major heart surgery.

“I had continued to maintain my Ministry as I expected Grace’s health would have shown greater improvement before now. However, as she now faces further challenges I have come to the point where I am no longer able to continue my Ministerial duties and give Grace the attention she deserves.”

Speaking about his comments on gay adoption, he added: “I have already said sorry for the offence caused and acknowledged that the comments were factually inaccurate. At no time did I set out to hurt or offend anyone and it has upset me greatly that the comments made have caused distress to some.”

DUP Leader Peter Robinson MLA said Jim Wells was right to put his family first.

Martin McGuinness had branded Mr Wells’ attack on the LGBT community as “reprehensible and completely unacceptable from someone holding the position of Health Minister”.

Mr McGuinness said: “I accept that he is under pressure as a result of his wife’s serious illness and I acknowledge that he has apologised. However I think those words will ring hollow when judged against the DUP’s opposition to marriage equality, its support for a ban on blood donations from gay men and opposition to adoption by gay couples.”

Mr Wells’ resignation will take effect from Monday, 11th May.