During a libel hearing at the High Court in Belfast, the first minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, shared how being called homophobic upsets her.
Foster is currently involved in a case against defendant Dr Christian Jessen, who allegedly tweeted on December 23 2019 that Mrs Foster was having an affair with one of her police officers.
The openly gay doctor, who later deleted his tweet about Mrs Foster, went on to share that he was having a “Barbara Streisand” moment, and that “This gay boy’s life cannot get any better.” This was in reference to, as he described, Foster preaching “the sanctity of marriage” and that “it always comes back to bite them on the arse in the end.”
When being questioned on her views on the LGBTQ+ community during the hearing, in particular her view that marriage should exist solely between a cis-gender man and woman, she responded that: “Yes, I take the traditional view, the church-based view, yes.”
When further asked if she was homophobic, however, Arlene Foster defended that:
“I do get distressed when people call me a homophobe because that’s something I am not. I have many friends who are homosexual, they know my views on same-sex marriage, and in any event, same-sex marriage is now the law here in Northern Ireland and has to be upheld.”
While Foster insisted that she has “never in [her] own political utterances said anything in connection with people who are homosexual”, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) does garner much support from conservative unionists in Northern Ireland.
I get very distressed when people deny us our human rights, Arlene. https://t.co/LOVnJdRTOC
— Stephen (@Donnan_S) April 14, 2021
Foster repeatedly honed in on the importance of her womanhood within the hearing, arguing that: “As a woman in politics and as a leader we come under a lot of stress and strain, but one of the things that gives me stability in my life is my home relationships.”
The first minister further went on to explain that she was deeply hurt by the allegations, and that:
“It was very humiliating to see the relationship that’s most important to me had been trashed, if you like, put out there in the public domain in that fashion.”
Arguably, and ironically enough for Mrs Foster, her alleged affair and the sanctity of her relationship with her husband were debated publically much like those of LGBTQ+ couples during the marriage equality campaigns both in the Republic of Ireland as well as the North.
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