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0A Northern Ireland councillor has withdrawn comments comparing homosexuality to a ‘disease’ during a debate on gay marriage.

Jackie Crawford made the controversial comments while discussing a Sinn Fein motion on same-sex marriage at a meeting of Magherafelt District Council on Tuesday.

Crawford argued in opposition to the motion, which passed 10-5, saying ‘It’s a pity they have that disease… it’s the same as you being born with a disability. They can’t help what they are.’ He continued, ‘I know gay people and they are nice people and not bad people but they should not be getting married.’

The UUP (Ulster Unionist Party) released a statement on Friday, quoting Crawford as saying: ‘While I re-emphasise my opposition to same-sex marriage, I did not intend to cause any hurt or offence with my use of language. The term “disease” was used as a figure of speech which I would not use again and I regret its unintended impact and any offence caused.’

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Crawford added: ‘I am not condemning homosexuals. I simply meant that they are born that way and it is not something they choose; disease was a slip of the tongue and I regret using the word.’ Adding ‘I have nothing against civil partnerships as long as they are not getting married.’

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