THE ULSTER Unionist Party has released a statement of “clarification” after Magherafelt councillor Jackie Crawford’s comment about homosexuality had led to criticism.
Councillor Crawford made the remark after a meeting of the council on Tuesday night which discussed a Sinn Fein motion calling for same-sex marriage.
The meeting also heard two DUP councillors describe homosexuality as “an abomination”.
In response, the DUP said that it upholds the right of its members to “quote from scriptures to explain religious objection to [gay marriage]”.
Councillor Crawford, who was elected in 2005, said after the council meeting: “I’m not against gays, it’s a pity for them.
“It’s a pity they have that disease and they can’t help it. It’s the same as you being born with a disability. They can’t help what they are.
“I know gay people and they are nice people and not bad people but they should not be getting married.”
On Friday the UUP released a statement which said that leader Mike Nesbitt had met Councillor Crawford to discuss the issue.
It quoted Cllr Crawford as saying: “While I re-emphasise my opposition to same-sex marriage, I did not intend to cause any hurt or offence with my use of language.
“The term ‘disease’ was used as a figure of speech which I would not use again and I regret its unintended impact and any offence caused.”
Mr Nesbitt said: “As party leader I am happy that Jackie has clarified his position and retracted the term ‘disease’. “I affirm Jackie’s right to hold a view against same-sex marriage.