UKIP leadership hopeful Diane James has insisted same-sex marriage is “no problem” and promised a better “balance” on LGBT issues within the party.
The UK Independence Party has struggled to shed its anti-gay image cultured by a number of homophobe scandals and opposition to same-sex marriage.
As candidates vie to replace Nigel Farage as UKIP leader, frontrunner Diane James has called for a clean break on the issues.
In a Q&A with LGBT supporters, Ms James insisted she had “no problem at all” with same-sex marriage as “it is now enshrined in UK legislation”.
The MEP suggested the party bolster scrutiny of candidates to weed out homophobes, including “proper process, systems and preparation”.
Ms James added that she would support the inclusion of LGBT policies in the party’s manifesto for the first time, and appeared critical of the party’s ‘conscience clause’ pledge in 2015 to permit anti-LGBT discrimination.
The MEP said she would “Ensure that the right balance is achieved in our next GE manifesto re content, slant and statements on aspects that our opposition will select to continue to use to reinforce [the view UKIP is homophobic]”.
As to what reforms the party should take, Ms James said the ban on gay men donating blood made her feel “uneasy” and backed “full and lawful recognition” for transgender people.
Asked if she would push Northern Ireland to adopt same-sex marriage, she said: “We have to recognise devolved government but if the UKIP membership were involved in ‘testing’ the next manifesto as I plan, then I would expect and hope to see this issue addressed.”
Leadership rival Bill Etheridge has also previously backed equality, insisting same-sex marriage is a “good thing” earlier this year.
Ms James previously voted against LGBT rights measures in the European Parliament, which she did not reference in the Q&A.
She previously defended homophobes within the party, insisting there were an “awful lot of people out there” that share the views of MEP Roger Helmer.
Helmer notoriously insisted homosexuality is “not a lifestyle worthy of equal respect” and “abhorrent to God”.