Words: Alastair James; pictures: Pexels and Wiki
A local councillor in Essex has been condemned after alleged homophobic comments made about same-sex weddings not being 'real' weddings.
Reverend Tony Shrimpton, who’s also a town councillor for Maldon, made the remarks as the local council rejected a request from a local wedding venue to fly the Pride flag during same-sex wedding ceremonies.
Local businesses have called him and the council, which has apologised, out over the comments.
In the meeting to discuss buying a Pride flag for the Moot Hall venue in the Essex town, which is used for weddings and other ceremonies, according to the BBC.
The Metro reports that the meeting was held on Monday 16 August.
Mr. Shrimpton is reported to have supported buying a flag, which he said could be flown during Pride week, but not for weddings saying, “I'm not very keen on calling same-sex weddings weddings. When you're talking about same-sex weddings, you're not talking about weddings.”
Moot Hall in Maldon (Photo: Wiki)
In a letter signed by local business leaders, it’s alleged that other comments made during the meeting included people saying “flying a flag sets a precedent,” and “why aren't we flying flags for other people?”.
Business leaders say they are "absolutely shocked" to hear the comments being said. The letter also reminds the town councillors they have “a responsibility to represent Maldon as a community as a whole, and that includes many LGBTQ+ members living and running businesses here.”
Ultimately the council voted on buying a Pride flag to be flown at Moot Hall, but not during weddings there.
“This is a really backward step"
Speaking to the BBC, Mr. Shrimpton laid out his archaic beliefs: “There should be a word that replaces the meaning of same-sex marriage. It would be more comfortable with me if there was a word for it.
"I supported the Pride flag flying during Pride week but I abide by the bible which clearly says marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Gay marriage has been legal in the UK in 2013.
Garry Ormes, the chair of Essex Pride, has described the comments as “outrageous,” to The Metro adding, “This is a really backward step. It doesn’t make anyone feel accepted and if I was living in Maldon I would suggest you wouldn’t feel welcome as a person.”
In a statement on the Maldon Town Council Facebook page the Mayor, David Ogg apologised for the comments and any hurt they caused. He said an investigation had been carried out, which concluded that it was "inappropriate" for Mr. Shrimpton to have made the comments and that he should acknowledge this publicly. Additionally, Mr. Ogg says all town councillors will be offered equality and diversity training.
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