UK

DUP leader Arlene Foster gets ‘distressed’ when she’s called homophobic, insists she’s got gay friends

Emma Powys Maurice April 15, 2021
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Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster (Charles McQuillan/Getty)

DUP leader Arlene Foster said she gets “very distressed” when she’s called homophobic, which is truly unfortunate for someone who opposes LGBT+ rights as much as she does.

Northern Ireland’s first minister was quizzed on her anti-LGBT+ views during a libel trial against celebrity doctor Christian Jessen, whom she is suing over a tweet she felt was an “attack” on her marriage.

Jessen, who’s best known for presenting the Channel Four show Embarrassing Bodies, was one of a number of people who tweeted allegations that Foster was having an affair.

In his tweet on 23 December 2019 he referred to the DUP leader as “the sanctity of marriage preaching woman”, adding: “It always comes back to bite them on the arse in the end.”

Jessen deleted the original tweet on 7 January 2020 but did not apologise. The court heard there was a “further aggravating tweet” on 26 December in which he wrote he was being compared to Barbra Streisand, saying: “This gay boy’s life cannot get any better.”

Arlene Foster, who’s repeatedly blocked attempts to allow same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, was asked in court if she believed marriage is a union solely between a man and a woman.

“Yes, I take the traditional view, the church-based view, yes,” she responded. But when asked if she was homophobic, Foster responded: “No.”

“I do get distressed when people call me a homophobe because that’s something I am not,” she said.

“I do think, unfortunately, in politics sometimes, if you take a nuanced position on one issue it becomes a much wider piece, and that’s unfortunately the case – if you cannot explain it in 140 characters in today’s society then it must be true – it is simply not true.

“I have many friends who are homosexual, they know my views on same-sex marriage, and in any event, same-sex marriage is now the law here in Northern Ireland and has to be upheld.

“I have never in my own political utterances said anything in connection with people who are homosexual and that’s why I do get quite upset when people call me a homophobe.”

Arlene Foster may think her record is squeaky clean, but Northern Ireland’s LGBT+ community might disagree.

While it is true that she’s made no public comments specifically on sexuality, she has led the DUP in repeatedly using an Assembly veto mechanism to block progressive change in Northern Ireland, particularly marriage equality.

It resulted in Northern Ireland trailing far behind the rest of the UK in human rights with a same-sex marriage ban that a top court ruled was “unjustified discrimination”.

Addressing a PinkNews reception at Stormont in 2018, Arlene Foster claimed to be born under “the principle that everyone is equal under law”, but maintained her opposition to same-sex marriage and asked her audience to respect that.

She also refused to apologise for the DUP’s past treatment of LGBT+ people, saying it wouldn’t be “fruitful for anybody”.

Even after marriage equality was finally passed in 2020 Foster continued to undermine the ruling by complaining it had been unfairly “imposed” upon Northern Ireland by Westminster.

But please, don’t call her a homophobe.

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