The Lord Mayor of Belfast, a councillor for the Democratic Unionist Party whose members have made numerous anti-gay comments in recent years, has attended a Pride event in the city.

Gavin Robinson attended the discussion event on Tuesday evening and said he wanted to “engage with every section of our society”, the BBC reports.

He said a “shared understanding will be of benefit to the city”, although the DUP still would not support marriage rights for gay couples.

The Belfast Newsletter reports that he told the audience at last night’s event he opposed equal marriage rights for gay couples, saying: “If you extend the definition (of marriage) to include everything, in the end it means nothing.

“Marriage is something we believe has a Biblical foundation in scripture.

“I think the definition is, marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s the belief I hold and the party holds.

“If it is going to dilute the definition of marriage, that’s not something we would support.”

He reportedly added that he would defend party members’ anti-gay comments on the grounds of free speech.

Many of the attendees objected to the DUP’s stance. Mr Robinson said in response: “I don’t consider anybody in this room to be lesser than myself. If I thought you were lesser, I wouldn’t be here.”

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson welcomed Mr Robinson’s appearance, saying: “The DUP are on a learning curve and it was good to see Gavin here tonight. I’m glad he accepted the invite and I hope it’s a sign of things to come.”

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph in June 2009, DUP MP Iris Robinson, wife of the first minister said: “I cannot think of anything more sickening than a child being abused. It is comparable to the act of homosexuality. I think they are all comparable. I feel totally repulsed by both.”

Two DUP MPs recently backed the campaign group Keep Marriage Special which claimed the next logical step after allowing gay couples to marry would be legalising incest and polygamy.

Last year, DUP assembly member Jim Wells reportedly told a Pride organiser that he would not take part in the “repugnant” event.

According to the Irish News, Mr Wells sent Pride organiser Simon Rea a text message which said: “Dear Mr Rea, I understand that you contacted my Kilkeel office regarding what is termed a ‘Belfast Pride’ debate.

“I find the behaviour of those who take part in this march repugnant. I do not wish to be associated in any way with this event.

“My position on this will not change in the future and I would politely suggest that any further requests of this nature will be a total waste of your time. Jim Wells.”