A DUP councillor has broken ranks to step away from the party’s historic opposition to homosexuality by stating that “there is nothing wrong with being gay”.
Councillor Tom Smith made the comments yesterday on social media in what is believed to be the first elected DUP member to express such forthright support for same-sex relationships in a public forum, although several DUP elected representatives have privately made clear that they do not share the party’s stance on such issues.
Although the DUP once campaigned to ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ under founder Ian Paisley’s leadership, under Peter Robinson and then Arlene Foster the DUP has been quietly changing over recent years - although the DUP still firmly opposes gay marriage being extended to Northern Ireland.
Jeffrey Dudgeon, the man whose Strasbourg court case led to homosexuality being decriminalised in Northern Ireland in 1982, has drawn attention to the significance of the DUP’s decision less than a year ago to allow the Stormont Assembly to pass legislation permitting retrospective pardons for those convicted under the pre-1982 law.
Yesterday Mr Smith, a councillor in North Down, spoke out about his views during a Twitter exchange with News Letter columnist Alex Kane.
Mr Smith said: “Alex, like you I too had friends who, because of persecution and abuse they would face, did not come out as gay - glad that’s changing. For the record I have absolutely no problem with Belfast Pride or PSNI taking part - we must end HATRED! [sic]”.
The councillor went on to say: “Just to be clear THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING GAY/TRANSGENDER. We are all different thank goodness. [sic]”
When contacted by the News Letter, Mr Smith said that he would be happy to discuss the issue - but only if the party press office approved an interview.
The party did not respond to a request to speak with Mr Smith.