DUP leader Arlene Foster is rejecting pressure to introduce same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland, saying her support for traditional marriage and the unborn is resolute.
Speaking on Monday, Mrs Foster expressed sadness that opponents of redefining marriage are branded ‘homophobic’ and ‘haters’.
And following a separate meeting with pro-life supporters, she said the party would do everything in its power to uphold Northern Ireland’s current law on abortion.
Last week, a gay pride event in Belfast called for the introduction of same-sex marriage. The UK Government approved the flying of the LGBT ‘rainbow’ flag at an official building in the city to mark the occasion.
In June, Westminster also said it would fund abortions for Northern Irish women who go to England.
Currently marriage is between one man and one woman in Northern Ireland and abortion remains illegal except to preserve the life of the mother.
Speaking at an event organised by The Methodist Church in Ireland, Arlene Foster said her party believes that “marriage is between a man and a woman” and “it remains my position very firmly”.
I think this debate has become very toxic.
The DUP leader added, the “most frustrating thing about this whole debate is the fact that if you stand up for marriage and if you stand up for the definition of marriage as we believe in it, then in some way that makes you homophobic and a hater of gays.
“Nothing could be further from the truth as far as I personally am concerned and it really does hurt me when people call me a homophobe just because I stand up for the definition of marriage which I believe in and I think this debate has become very toxic.”
The same event also saw Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill, Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw and Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond speak to Sky News journalist David Blevins in Castlewellan.
Following a separate meeting with the Precious Life group in Northern Ireland, the organisation emailed supporters to say Arlene Foster had made clear her position on abortion would not change.
Noting the pressure her party was coming under from London, Mrs Foster said the DUP would do all it could to maintain the position.
The pro-life group told The Times that the DUP leader was “unequivocal in her pro-life conviction and assured us that the DUP will use their power to keep abortion and the 1967 Abortion Act out of pro-life Northern Ireland”.