Christian DUP leader Arlene Foster has said she gets “very distressed” when she is referred to as homophobic.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister was quizzed on her views during libel proceedings against a celebrity doctor who tweeted an unsubstantiated rumour that she had an affair.
The tweet was by Dr Christian Jessen on 23rd December 2019 and was deleted on 7th January 2020.
The DUP had in the past opposed attempts to allow same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland but it became law following legislation at Westminster while Stormont was suspended.
The DUP opposed same-sex marriage on religious grounds, arguing that marriage should be between a man and a woman and that civil partnerships were already available to same-sex couples.
Mrs Foster, who leads the party, was asked during proceedings at the High Court in Belfast if she took the “traditional view of marriage” that it is a union between a man and a woman.
“Yes, I take the traditional view, the church-based view, yes,” she responded.
Asked if she was homophobic, Mrs Foster responded “no”.
Mr Justice McAlinden said there is a “big difference between holding strong religious views about the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman and having an irrational hatred of homosexuals”.
Mrs Foster agreed: “There is, absolutely.
“I get very distressed when people do actually call me a homophobe because that’s something I am not.
“I do think, unfortunately, in politics sometimes, if you take a nuanced position on one issue it becomes a much wider piece, and that’s unfortunately the case – if you cannot explain it in 140 characters in today’s society then it must be true – it is simply not true.
“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.
“I have never in my own political utterances said anything in connection with people who are homosexual and that’s why I do get quite upset when people call me a homophobe.”
The politician was in the High Court in Belfast to tell the court about the impact of the tweet about her marriage.
Mrs Foster said she had to sit down with her two elder children – then aged 17 and 19 – to talk to them about it, as well as her elderly mother, then aged 85, and assure them the rumour was not true, adding: “It was not a conversation that I would like to repeat.”
Asked how she felt about it, she replied: “Very very upset.
“Having to speak to my husband and explain to him what had happened, because this gentleman has a large following, so this was going to go quite far and wide,” she added.
“It was very humiliating, I have to say, to see that the relationship that is most important to me had been trashed, if you like, and got put out there in the public domain in that fashion.
“There wasn’t much sleep on the night of December 23.
“I spoke to my husband and we decided we needed to take action because this was only going to continue to grow. I therefore contacted my solicitor and asked him to take action in relation to the matter.”