Alison Bennington, became the DUP party’s first openly gay politician earlier this month. The party has long been known for its hostility towards the LGBT+ community.
Ms Bennington’s election has had extensive media coverage with members of her own party speaking publically about the outrage they feel over the election of an openly gay candidate.
Despite all of this, Ms Bennington has remained silent having not yet spoken publicly on the topic.
At the first meeting of the new Antrim and Newtownabbey council this week, Ms Bennington turned down a request to speak to the media with fellow DUP councillor Philip Brett denying suggestions she has been “gagged”.
“She hasn’t been gagged. She has just been elected less than a week, it’s a very stressful time for her,” he told the BBC.
“It’s not something I think she wants to do (talk to the media) at this stage.”
After her election in April, Ms Bennington did not speak to any journalists at the court centre and left the count centre promptly after being elected.
Prior to Bennington’s election, DUP MLA Jim Wells said her candidacy was a “betrayal” and that the late Ian Paisley, former leader of the DUP, would be “aghast” at the decision to run an openly-gay candidate.
He went on to say there is discontent from the top of the DUP regarding this decision which he says is his lowest moment in a 44-year membership with the party and that it went against the values of the DUP.
Jim Wells also alleged that Ms Bennington had been favoured over more qualified candidates and that the decision to run an openly gay candidate was a “watershed decision”.
Arlene Foster welcomed what she said was a strong showing in the elections and said her party will look at a number of issues including “bad behaviour” by party members once the dust settles after last week’s Northern Ireland local elections.
“It sends out a message that the DUP is open to everyone who signs up to the policies of the Democratic Unionist Party, as Alison did,” Foster told UTV.
“There are people who are uncomfortable, I think it would be right to acknowledge that, but as I indicated last week, our policy in relation to same-sex marriage has not changed,” she said.
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