The Anti-LGBTI Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) elected its first ever gay candidate in North Ireland’s local council elections.
Alison Bennington has won a seat on the Antrim and Newtonabbey Council yesterday (3 May). Despite the party actively voting against same-sex marriage in England and Wales and blocking it in Northern Ireland, Bennington openly identifies as gay.
Speaking about running for the DUP in April, Bennington told Irish News she was running on what she could do for the electorate and ‘not based on my sexual orientation’.
She said: ‘I regard my private and family life as a matter for myself in the same way as everyone else.’
Bennington’s decision to run has caused controversy within the heavily conservative party.
Deputy Speaker of the Northern Irish Assembly, Jim Wells, told the Belfast Telegraph it ‘fundamentally undermines the values and traditions of the party’. He also claimed the party’s founder, Ian Paisley, would be ‘aghast’.
He added: ‘I believe the party still has a strong support base among church going people who believe that scripturally same-sex relationships are not acceptable, particularly in terms of representing the party.
‘People can vote for the DUP, we don’t discriminate, that’s not the issue, the issue is the party had principles on these issues, as we have on protecting the unborn child and euthanasia, we have these core values.’
The DUP has a long history of opposing LGBTI rights in Northern Ireland. In the 1970s, they led a campaign to prevent the decriminalization of homosexuality in the country called ‘Save Ulster From Sodomy’.