A UKIP politician who made openly transphobic comments in a speech in the Welsh Assembly has reluctantly apologised.
UK Independence Party politician Gareth Bennett, an Assembly Member representing South Wales Central, attracted heckles of anger with his speech in the Welsh Assembly last month.
In his speech, Bennett claimed transgender equality would lead to a “total implosion” of society, describing transgender people as “nutty” and a “deviation from the norm” before insisting there must be “limits” to rights for minority groups.
Mr Bennett had refused to apologise for the comments, leading the Presiding Officer Elin Jones to rule that he wouldn’t be called to speak in the chamber until he did.
The UKIP politician this week reluctantly gave a half-apology, allowing him to return to the chamber.
He said: “I refer to the point of order that was raised with you on 13 December last year. I’m sorry that people took offence at what I said and I wish to make it clear that I respect your authority as Chair.
“I do, however, stand by the views I expressed about the proposed changes to the gender recognition Bill.”
The Presiding officer added: “I accept your apology, Gareth Bennett, and you may be assured that I’ll always uphold the right of any Member in this Chamber to air views that are unpalatable to other Members and to others as well.
“But, all Members need to do so using language that is both parliamentary and non-discriminatory at all times. Thank you.”
In his original speech, he said: “We can’t go on as a society endlessly acceding to the demands of minorities.
“At some point, we have to recognise that granting more rights to a particular minority group will negatively impact on the rights of the majority of people in our society as a whole.
“We have a perfect example of this with the recent controversies over transgender rights. A Conservative Government at Westminster is proposing some fairly wide-ranging increases to the rights of transgender people.
“This could mean that anyone who wishes to identify as being of a gender different to their physical gender may be able to do so, simply by defining themselves as such.”
He added: “We are going to have a lot of fun with this over the next few years if we continue to proceed as a society with this kind of minority-obsessed nonsense.
“What we need to do is have a grown-up conversation about the issue of minority rights and accept that there have to be limits to them.”
Mr Bennett said he at the time that he had “no intention” of apologising.
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The Leader of UKIP in Wales, Neil Hamilton, has fully backed Mr Bennett in the row.
Mr Hamilton said: “I have had a frank exchange of views with the Presiding Officer this afternoon and we will have a further meeting over the recess.
“UKIP is a minority whose rights need to be protected as well. We were elected to confront the Cardiff Bay consensus and political correctness and will continue to do so.”
Mr Hamilton may be surprised to hear that there are nine protected characteristics in UK equality law: Age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity.
Membership of UKIP is not a protected characteristic.
Andrew White, Director of Stonewall Cymru, said: “It is disappointing that UKIP’s Gareth Bennett has singled out trans people as somehow less deserving of human rights than others.
“It is particularly worrying that he chooses to demonstrate such narrowminded bullying behaviour in the chamber of our National Assembly.
“Mr Bennett should be aware that some of the people he is there to represent will be trans. Our recent report, LGBT in Wales shows hate crime against lesbian, gay bi and trans people has risen dramatically.
“In the last 12 months, more than half of trans people in Wales have been the victim of a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity.”