Gay rights activists are planning to stage a parade through the hometown of a unionist politician who claimed natural disasters are God’s way of punishing gay people.
The demonstration, which is scheduled to take place in Ballymena, County Antrim, at the beginning of 2006, is in response to comments made by local Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) councillor Maurice Mills.
Last week, the twice former deputy mayor of Ballymena claimed Hurricane Katrina had been sent by God to prevent a gay rights festival taking place in New Orleans, USA.
He also said Asia bore the brunt of the St Stephen’s Day tsunami because it is not a Christian continent.
Mr Mills’ comments outraged equality campaigners, trade unions, aid organisations and rival politicians.
As a direct response to the DUP man’s outburst, gay rights activists are now planning to stage a Mardi Gras-style parade through Ballymena, the first of its kind in the town.
The Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association’s PA MagLochlainn welcomed the proposal.
He said: “I said last week that I hoped to see such a parade take place in Ballymena and it looks as if my vision is coming true.
“The parade should have as much support as possible, from both the gay and straight communities.
“I would also like to see other organisations such as trade unions and political parties take part.”
Both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have given their backing to the Ballymena parade proposal.
Sinn Fein councillor Monica Digney said she would take to the streets with gay rights activists in a show of support.
“This is a proposal that needs the support of the entire community,” said Ms Digney.
“Maurice Mills needs to know that these people did not wake up one morning and chose to be gay. They were born that way and, no matter what their sexual preference is, they are valued members of society.”
Ms Digney said she would be putting forward a motion at next week’s full monthly meeting of Ballymena Borough Council calling on political parties to condemn Mr Mills’ comments.
She also demanded the DUP councillor’s resignation.
Despite the mounting criticism, Mr Mills refused to withdraw his claim that natural disasters were sent by God to punish gays and non-Christians.
He also said he would consider protesting against the gay rights parade taking place in Ballymena.
Mr Mills said: “There is a principle at stake here and that is homosexuality is a sin before almighty God.
“If I were to apologise for my comments then God would have to apologise.”
Ms Paisley, who is no longer a member of the DUP but still lives with her parents, is claiming sexual discrimination against the DUP leader and other officers of the party including her brother, Ian jnr.
Ms Paisley is remembered for describing Sinn Fein as “the dung of the city” as a Belfast councillor in 1991.
The family said it would not be commenting on the matter.