Thousands attend Belfast Gay Pride parade

The success of today’s Gay Pride parade in Belfast has been hailed as a call for a more tolerant and equal society in the North.

The success of today’s Gay Pride parade in Belfast has been hailed as a call for a more tolerant and equal society in the North.

Thousands attended the colourful Gay Pride event which had been overshadowed by a row over comments on homosexuality made by DUP MP Iris Robinson.

Members of the Free Presbyterian Church held at least two small protests around today’s parade but the afternoon passed off incident-free.

Alliance Party official Gerry Lynch reiterated demands for Mrs Robinson to resign as chair of the Stormont Health Committee.

Mrs Robinson, the wife of Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson, claimed gay sex was an abomination and was also quoted by parliamentary record keepers Hansard that homosexuality is more vile than child abuse.

The Strangford MP later distanced herself from the comments and claimed they did not accurately reflect her views.

Mr Lynch said after the parade: “The silent majority have spoken loud and clear here today by attending in such huge numbers to support this parade.

“The majority of people want Northern Ireland to be a tolerant and equal society and not a society caught in a 17th century time warp.”

Calling on Mrs Robinson to quit her Stormont Committee post, he added: “She should have resigned immediately after making the comments.”

Parade organiser Andy Thompson said: “In terms of being in a position at the heart of government in Northern Ireland, she must go.”

Earlier this week high-profile gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell inflamed the debate further when he claimed that Unionist folk-hero King William of Orange had male lovers.

One of the North’s main newspapers yesterday carried a full page advert from a Free Presbyterian church entitled 'Word Of God Against Sodomy', stating homosexuality was an offence in the eyes of Bible believers.

The organisers of the parade were urged to ensure there was no repeat of the controversy surrounding last year’s event when a participant displayed a placard suggesting Jesus was a homosexual.

The Northern Ireland Parades Commission, which rules on contentious marches in the region, decided not to place any restrictions on the event despite a significant number of objections from the public.

The commission did not restrict the Free Presbyterian Church protests either.

Christian groups were angered by last year’s parade when a placard with “Jesus is a fag” was held aloft by one person taking part.

However, members of the gay community said signs carried by religious protesters were equally offensive to them.

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