THE Gay Pride parade being held in Belfast on Saturday is “particularly sensitive” because of the debate about gay marriage, one of its most vocal opponents has said.
Ahead of an event which is expected to attract about 10,000 people to the city centre, the Rev David McIlveen said that he would again be leading a service to “witness against the act of sodomy” at the parade.
The comments come at the end of a week where the DUP broke new ground by attending a Gay Pride event for the first time.
Belfast Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson faced criticism from about 100 people at the public debate when he reiterated his party’s opposition to gay marriage.
The event also led to friction in the SDLP after MLA Conall McDevitt claimed that the party supported gay marriage.
As revealed in Friday’s News Letter, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said that was wrong and suggested that his party colleague was “playing to the gallery” and had exaggerated.
The event also heard a claim from Alliance’s Anna Lo that her party leader, David Ford, had changed his mind on gay marriage and now supported the concept.
Ms Lo encouraged people to attend today’s parade: “Belfast Pride is one of the annual highlights on the Belfast calendar, attracting participants from across Northern Ireland and beyond.
“Events like Belfast Pride highlight the need to put an end to homophobic bullying and all other forms of discrimination in our society.”
But Mr McIlveen, a retired Free Presbyterian minister who has spoken out against Gay Pride for many years, said that he would again be hosting a Christian service while the parade was taking place.
“We meet at the corner of North Street and Waring Street and like previous years we are having a service from 11.15am to 12 noon,” said Mr McIlveen.
Rejecting the description of their presence as a “protest” the minister said: “We do make the distinction, and see it as a gospel witness against the act of sodomy.”
He added: “This year is particularly sensitive because of the whole gay marriage issue and we feel we must lay down a marker that gay marriage is contrary to the teachings of the Bible, and we would implore our legislative bodies to reject any attempt to change the legislation to permit gay marriage. It’s unbiblical and I believe totally unacceptable.”
The former minister of Sandown Free Presbyterian said that the congregation was regularly joined at the open air Gay Pride service by people from “outside the denomination”.