The Mayor of North Down, Andrew Muir, says he has experienced “quite a significant amount of discrimination, harassment and violence” for being an openly gay politician.
In an interview to the Belfast Telegraph, the Alliance Party councillor spoke of his heritage. He said: “I’m the product of a mixed marriage I’ve been in both Catholic and Presbyterian churches, depending on which grandparents I was with. I think the thing for me growing up in Northern Ireland and seeing the division was something I found wrong and the only way to resolve our problems was through dialogue and discussion.”
Mr Muir added of his gay friends: “I know far too many people who have left Northern Ireland and I had a couple of friends who unfortunately committed suicide. That’s a motivator for change in politics and change in society. That should not be accepted or normal in any society.”
Speaking of his own experience he said: “I came out in 1996 and Northern Ireland is a dramatically changed society now from what it was at that time.
“In 1996 there was very little equality legislation for lesbian and gay people and I can remember walking through the streets of Derry and having rocks thrown at me and homophobic abuse hurled at me.
“I remember homophobic graffiti being scrawled outside my house and reporting that to police.”
Northern Ireland is the only remaining UK nation where same-sex marriage has not been legalised.
Commenting after the Scottish Parliament voted in February to legalise equal marriage, Mr Muir predicted that Northern Ireland will have equal marriage within 10 years.
“Whether it’s through legislation or through the courts, it’s an inevitability,” he said.
The DUP has the most MLAs of any party in the Assembly.