Council to discuss Co Down civic building being lit up in Pride colours
A MOTION to see a civic building in Co Down lit up in Pride colours is to discussed by councillors tonight after a DUP member broke party ranks to vote in favour of the proposal.
A vote by DUP councillor Tom Smith meant that Ards and North Down borough council's corporate affairs committee backed a proposal for Newtownards Town Hall to be illuminated in rainbow colours for future Pride events.
However, Free Presbyterian ministers have criticised the move, describing it as a "divisive recommendation".
The motion, proposed by Alliance councillors Gavin Walker and Andrew Muir this month, called for the committee to back a proposal "affirming that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people be accepted and valued as equal citizens".
It was passed by six votes to five, with the backing of the DUP's Mr Smith proving crucial. His five DUP colleagues on the committee voted against.
However, the committee's recommendation still needs to be ratified at a full meeting of the council tonight.
But it has emerged an open letter from Free Presbyterian congregations in the area has been sent to all 40 councillors ahead of the meeting.
It states that members of congregations "have expressed deep shock and sadness upon learning of the divisive recommendation".
"As Bible-believing Christians, with a love for all and a desire for the welfare of society, we are duty bound to uphold the Bible teaching that marriage is a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman," they said.
"We find it incomprehensible that, under the guise of noble sounding words such as 'diversity', any councillor would vote to promote the agenda of a small minority, an agenda that is viewed by many to be aggressively anti-Biblical.
"To support the lighting of Ards Town Hall in this manner would indicate that you are unaware of the grave offence this will give to many residents, and would reveal a lack of consideration for our sincerely held Biblical viewpoint."
But Alliance councillor Mr Muir said he hoped tonight's meeting would see the "passing of this positive decision".
"I am extremely grateful to all those who supported this motion and sincerely hope that council will ratify this decision and let Ards and North Down borough council make history as the first council in Northern Ireland to back such a pledge making it clear that nobody should feel that being LGBT is something to be disappointed about or ashamed of," he said.