Politician wants to ban LGBT events ‘promoting alternative lifestyles’ from Northern Ireland Assembly

Jim Wells MLA walks through the Great Hall at Stormont

A member of the Northern Ireland Assembly has called for a ban on LGBT events “promoting alternative lifestyles” at the Stormont buildings.

The Alternative Queer Ulster event was held at Stormont on Saturday, with speakers from across Northern Ireland’s LGBT community coming together to call for equality.

However the event has attracted fury from Jim Wells MLA, a strong opponent of LGBT equality who had the Democratic Unionist Party whip withdrawn earlier this year after falling out with the party leadership.

Wells took exception to the presence of drag queen Electra La Cnt, who in 2016 protested stigma against people living with HIV by wearing a tiara coated in dried HIV-positive blood.

The drag queen was introduced at the event under the name ‘Electra La Controversial’.

In an interview with the BBC’s Stephen Nolan, Wells said “that type of event should not happen again”, admitting he had broader objections to the event than simply the drag artist’s presence.

He said: “I have grave concerns about the fact that such an extreme LGBT event was held. I am very uncomfortable with the basic message that was coming out of that event.

“The message is that you promote and evangelise and try to increase support for alternative lifestyles, which many people in Northern Ireland feel very uncomfortable with, like… bisexuals.”

He added: “The norm is a man and a woman… Stormont is not the place for promoting and evangelising for alternative lifestyles. The norm is heterosexuality.

“Should we have Stormont being used on a Saturday night to promote something that many people in Northern Ireland would find embarassing and extremely uncomfortable?

“Saturday night was a celebration and a glorification of an issue that many people find uncomfortable, and they do not want the Northern Ireland Assembly buildings used to glorify it.”

The MLA told the Belfast Telegraph that “no MLA should have sponsored or attended the event” and that sponsors “should have withdrawn their support immediately” after the drag queen’s presence was made clear.

The event was sponsored by Green MLAs Clare Bailey, who attended alongside Green MLA Steven Agnew, Alliance MLA John Blair and UUP MLA Mike Nesbitt.

Due to rules requiring cross-community support for events, it was co-sponsored by the DUP’s Paula Bradley and Sinn Fein’s Megan Fearon, though neither attended the event.

Wells said: “A lot of people who think that this went too far and that this event should not have been held at the seat of the government of Northern Ireland – it would have been more appropriate in a private venue.

“I believe that once it became apparent on Thursday the nature of the event then sponsorship should have been immediately pulled.

“The event should have been cancelled…. sponsors vouch for the conduct of those present and it’s a reflection on you.

“This event was tasteless and has brought the Northern Ireland Assembly and Stormont into disrepute.

“Steps must be taken to prevent a similar type of event taking place in Parliament Buildings again.”

Jim Wells

Responding on Facebook, Electra La Cnt responded to Wells repeatedly alluding to her social media presence.

She wrote: “Ohhhhh my ears are burning… JIM WELLS BABY IF YOU’RE READING THIS (as you’re apparently stalking my Facebook): Why you so obsessed with me bbz?

“Get over yourself love. Your focus on rude language detracts from what all 22 queer people said that night.”

LGBT activists spoke about the need for marriage equality and other LGBT rights reforms in their speeches in Stormont’s Great Hall.

It was the second LGBT event in Stormont in recent weeks, following a PinkNews reception in June attended by all the major party leaders.

DUP leader Arlene Foster addresses the PinkNews Belfast reception. (Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye)

Wells had the whip withdrawn earlier this year after attacking the DUP leadership for failing to reappoint him to a senior post.

He claimed: “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.”

While Health Minister, Wells ignored scientific advice to keep a permanent “gay blood” ban in place. The MLA has previously branded Pride parades “repugnant”.

He told Belfast Pride in 2011: “I understand that you contacted my office regarding what is termed a ‘Belfast Pride’ debate.

“As you are probably know I find the behaviour of those who take part in this march totally repugnant.

“I do not therefore wish to be association in any way with this event.”

“My position on this matter will not change in the future and I would politely suggest that any further requests of this nature will be a total waste of your time.”