DUP leader Arlene Foster says it’s “complete nonsense” to suggest that her party is homophobic.
Northern Ireland’s ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party has been under scrutiny this week, as the Conservative Party is trying to seal a voting alliance in order to gain a majority in the House of Commons.
The DUP has blocked all progress on equal marriage in Northern Ireland, and has supported the introduction of a UK-wide ‘conscience clause’ to protect people who discriminate against LGBT people.
Of the 10 DUP MPs that Theresa May will be relying on, many harbour actively homophobic views.
Ian Paisley Jr MP says he is “repulsed” by gay people, while Sammy Wilson MP refused to mark World AIDS Day, claiming HIV is the result of gay “lifestyle choices”.
In an interview with ITV, party leader Arlene Foster branded concerns “nonsense”.
She said: “There’s been a lot of hyperbole talked about our position to the gay community.
“Much of it is complete and utter nonsense, I have to say.
“We take a particular view in relation to the definition of marriage; that does not mean in any one way that we are homophobic.
“But we’ve been branded in a particular way, which as I say is complete nonsense.
“Those are issues, social issues, for Stormont to deal with. They are devolved issues.”
Ms Foster recently reaffirmed plans to continue using peace process powers to override the Northern Irish Assembly and block equal marriage. She defended her actions by insisting gay people don’t really want to get married anyway.
She said: “This suggestion that every single person who’s a homosexual wants to change the definition of marriage is actually wrong.
“I know plenty of people in that community who don’t want to see marriage redefined and are quite content to live in partnership… it’s all become a bit of a storm in a teacup.”
A DUP minister previously branded LGBT Pride events “totally repugnant”.
Among the ten MPs that the Tories want to bring onside is Ian Paisley Jr, the son of ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ founder Ian Paisley, who also founded the DUP.
Paisley Jr has spoken of his “hatred” of homosexuality, saying: “I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong. I think that those people harm themselves and – without caring about it – harm society.”
The MP defended his comments in 2013, saying: “I am repulsed by many things.The actions, and not specifically the individuals. I am repulsed by people who are not homosexual as well sometimes.”
Related: Meet the DUP homophobes who now hold the keys to power in the UK