Mid Ulster Pride: MLA calls on Parades Commission to oppose Free Presbyterian protest at LGBT parade
An SDLP MLA has said a protest by a church group over a planned LGBTQ+ parade has “no place in Mid Ulster” because it is “intolerant”.
Last year saw the first Pride Parade in Cookstown, and the small march – limited by Covid restrictions – was preceded by a small Free Presbyterian protest.
This year the parade is planned for September 18, and Rev Marcus Leckey of the Free Presbyterian Church in Cookstown has once again lodged an application with the Parades Commission to protest against it.
However SDLP Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone has condemned those behind the planned protest.
“This intolerance has no place in Mid Ulster and in no way reflects the view of the community here,” he told the Mid Ulster Mail.
“If they insist on proceeding then the Parades Commission should step in.
“This protest is not in the interests of anyone other than a small group of people who insist on pushing their unwelcome agenda long after the rest of society has left them behind.”
However Rev Leckey challenged the MLA on his comments.
“Clearly Mr McGlone is against free speech, against peaceful protest, and against his own constituents who have traditional Christian morality – not clever positions to take for a public representative,” he said.
He added: “As democrats and peaceful citizens in a diverse society, we respect every individual’s right to make their own choices without fear or discrimination – and as such we simply ask the right to express our views without insult from a public representative.”
Mid Ulster Pride chairman Joshua Cuddy said: “I don’t go out of my way to step on people.
“All I want is to create a Mid-Ulster where people can live together regardless of what form of sexual expression or gender expression or conservative views – there is no reason we can’t exist without getting in each other’s way or stepping on each other’s toes.”
Mr Cuddy said he was very supportive of moves to outlaw “gay conversation therapy”.
He said that clergy should be trained for a better understanding of sexuality to help them deal with LGBT issues.
Asked if he thought clergy should be criminalised if they read scripture and pray with a parishioner – who might claim to have “unwanted same sex attraction” – he said there was “no straight answer” and that the issue should be dealt with on “a case-by-case basis”. Rev Marcus Leckey said it was feasible clerics could be criminalised in future over the issue.
The Parades Commission said it is not imposing any conditions on the parade but that the application for a counter protest is to be decided on next week.
Mid Ulster Pride chairman Joshua Cuddy has said he is both gay and a member of the Orange Order, adding: “My lodge knows exactly who I am, what I am and what I do. They have said nothing to me.”
In a BBC documentary earlier this year, Mr Cuddy he said: “The Orange Order is a group of men who prefer to spend time in the company of other men and once a year they have a big parade. Oh no sorry that’s being gay.”
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