DUP’s Jim Wells: I don’t regret pursuing terminally ill cancer patient over gay marriage row

A high profile DUP politician says he has no regrets about taking a woman battling terminal cancer to court in a row over remarks about same-sex marriage.

Jim Wells, who served as Northern Ireland’s health minister, is one of the most hardline anti-LGBT politicians in the country.

Mr Wells branded Pride parades “repugnant,” refused to take part in LGBT rights debates, and ignored scientific advice to keep a permanent “gay blood” ban in place.

But he resigned in 2015 after outrage over accusations he made anti-gay comments during a hustings in South Downs.

Jim Wells

At the hustings debate, he said: “All evidence throughout the world says the best way to raise children is in a loving, stable, married relationship; the facts show that, the facts show that certainly you don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship.”

Immediately afterwards, against uproar from the audience, he added: “I say again, I say again, a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected in a non-stable marriage situation, gay or straight.”

Mr Wells argued that in the full context his remarks made clear he was talking about unstable relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

49-year-old Dorothy Gardner filed a police complaint about the comments – but police found that she had not been present at the hustings and determined her report was not accurate.

DUP member Jim Wells MLA for South Down (Photo by Paul McErlane/Getty Images)

Ms Gardner admitted “wasteful employment of the police by knowingly making a false report or statement tending to show that an offence had been committed by Mr James Wells MLA” and was handed a suspended three month sentence.

Following the court appearance, Mr Wells claimed he had been “vindicated” of any wrongdoing.

Asked if he regrets pursuing the cancer patient he told the Belfast Telegraph: “Absolutely not. It totally vindicated me. My career had been destroyed by a totally false allegation.

“The transcript and video of the actual meeting proved I never said what was alleged.”

Wells says DUP officials banned him from speaking about the case after Gardner was found guilty because, he believes, it would prove toxic for the party.

“When the transcript emerged that proved I didn’t say what was alleged, the party wouldn’t let me do an interview,” he said.

“I suspect they wanted rid of me because I’m old-fashioned, traditional DUP. I’m anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion. I would be conservative and maybe that’s not the new image the party wants.”

The Northern Irish politician denies disliking gay people, however, explaining: “I’m not anti-gay. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.

DUP Leader Arlene Foster with Theresa May (Getty)

“It’s the practice. I have Christian friends who accept that and don’t practice.

“But I’m very passionate about the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman.

“All the evidence shows that the best model for bringing up children is in a loving monogamous, heterosexual marriage.”

Mr Wells also revealed that he does not own a television or have internet access.