Alison Bennington, a DUP election candidate, has become the party’s first openly gay politician. The party has long been known for its hostility towards the LGBT+ community.
The DUP is opposed to same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland and faced backlash from the LGBT+ community in 2015 when the party blocked a vote in favour of legalising same-sex marriage using the petition of concern veto.
Bennington is contesting the council election for the DUP in the Glengormley Urban area of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council. Bennington could become the party’s first ever openly gay elected representative next month.
“I am delighted to have been selected as a DUP council candidate,” Ms Bennington said. “I am putting myself before the electorate based on what I can deliver for them as a councillor working alongside a strong team of colleagues, not based on my sexual orientation.”
Ms Bennington added: “I regard my private and family life as a matter for myself in the same way as everyone else.”
Last summer, Arlene Foster became the first DUP leader to attend an LGBT+ event. Mrs Foster attended the event in Stormont during Pride month to “recognise the reality of diversity among our citizens”. However, Mrs Foster remains opposed to same-sex marriage, saying: “I believe I can hold to my principled position, particularly in reality to the definition of marriage, while respecting the diversity across our society and recognising that sexuality is a matter for the individual.”
Previous leaders of the party have also opposed same-sex marriage. Former DUP leader Ian Paisley led the ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ campaign in the late 1970s against the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland. His son Ian Jnr, DUP MP for North Antrim, has publicly said he is “repulsed by gay and lesbianism”.
Ms Bennington has previously indicated that she is in favour of same-sex marriage through a post on her Facebook page.
Ms Bennington runs a consultancy firm in the culture, parks and sports sectors. She has previously worked in city sports facilities as well as local and central government.
A DUP spokesman said: “Alison is an excellent candidate and will make an excellent representative for the people of Glengormley. The party selects candidates on the basis of merit and we believe in equality of opportunity.”
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