The Ulster Unionist Party has defended a decision by one of its MLAs to sponsor a controversial LGBT event at Stormont.
Alternative Queer Ulster will take place in the Great Hall, Parliament Buildings on Saturday, July 27.
Last year’s event at Stormont caused a storm after footage emerged showing drag queen Electra La Cnt swearing loudly into the microphone.
At one point they shouted: “Up the f****** queers” while punching the air, followed by rapturous applause from the audience.
Among those co-sponsoring the event this year is UUP MLA John Stewart, who said it provides a ”platform and voice” for the LGBT community.
When it comes to the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, the UUP remains split and allows members to have a conscience vote on the issue.
Some of the most senior party members – including Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie – have been vocal in their support of legalising same-sex marriage.
Last month, party leader Robin Swann – who voted against marriage reform in the Assembly back in 2015 – was a guest speaker at the PinkNews summer reception in Belfast.
The News Letter asked the UUP if it was comfortable with Mr Stewart giving his backing to the Alternative Queer Ulster event, given the controversy surrounding it last year.
A party spokesperson replied: “The event has been permitted by the Assembly Commission and the party leader is aware that John is a co-sponsor of this event.
“The organisers of the event have given a commitment to the sponsors that the event will meet the requirements of the commission when using Stormont for an event.”
Ulster Unionist Assemblyman Roy Beggs, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, was asked how he felt about his party colleague co-sponsoring the event.
He told the News Letter simply: “I have no intention of attending the event that is being sponsored.”
In promotion material for the event, the organisers urge those people taking part to “be respectful of different attitudes to coarse language” and to “respect the dignity of others”.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the LGBT group had “abused” Stormont last year and should not be permitted to hold the event there again.
He added: “If any other group did that; using foul language and insulting people who hold a different opinion, then they wouldn’t be allowed to use the place again. But it seems that when it comes to gay rights groups, a blind eye is turned to things that they say and do.”
Last year’s event was co-sponsored by DUP MLA Paula Bradley. Afterwards the DUP said she was not acting on behalf of the party and had “learned a salient lesson”.
Green Party leader Clare Bailey and Sinn Fein MLA Megan Fearon are also co-sponsoring the event, which organisers say will invoke the spirit of the Stonewall riots to mark its 50th anniversary.
The News Letter contacted those behind the event, but we received no reply.
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