Ulster Unionist candidate says he is not homophobic

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The Ulster Unionist Party candidate for South Antrim has said he is not homophobic and supports gay equality.

Adrian Watson, an Ulster Unionist who is the mayor of Antrim, has been accused of homophobia in the past.

In 2006, he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan show that he would not allow gay and lesbian couples to stay at his guest house.

Mr Watson said: “This is a bed and breakfast in a family home with three young children. Common sense has to prevail.

He added that although he believed in “total tolerance”, he would feel “uncomfortable” having gay couples around his 14-year-old daughter.

He was chosen last month by his constituency association as the candidate for the seat.

The UUP has an electoral alliance with the Conservative Party and will field joint candidates for the May general election.

Last week, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell urged the Conservatives to reject Mr Watson.

He said: “I don’t see how the Conservatives can claim to be a gay-friendly party when they are allied to an Ulster Unionist candidate who calls gay people ‘homos’ and who demands the right to discriminate against same-sex couples. David Cameron should disown Watson and call on the Ulster Unionists to replace him.”

A Tory spokesman would not comment to the Belfast Telegraph but said Mr Watson was not yet a Tory candidate.

Refuting the allegations of homophobia, Mr Watson said gay people had “absolutely nothing to fear” from him.

He added: “My reservations at that time were entirely down to the fact that my wife has strong evangelical Christian views and because my 14-year-old daughter at that particular time was helping to serve breakfasts in the guest house.

“That was what concerned me as a husband and father at that specific time. It was a purely personal concern as a husband and a father which I know most people would understand.

“I have a completely live-and-let-live attitude to gays and I know that many gay people support our party which has a far more tolerant view than the DUP, which has been tainted with homophobia through the interventions of the First Minister’s wife, the then MP and MLA, Iris Robinson.”