A Conservative council member from Braintree District Council, Angela Kilmartin, has been suspended from the council’s Conservative group pending an investigation after making controversial comments on social media regarding LGBTQ+ Pride flags. Kilmartin wrote on Facebook that she did not want any “sex flags” on her local High Street in Witham, Essex, and reiterated her stance in a second comment. She added that she did not even want heterosexual flags on display in public spaces. Her comments were made in response to a post from a man who had bought Pride flags for Witham businesses to feature in their shop windows.
The comments sparked outrage, and the council has stated that it is looking into several code of conduct issues as a result. Kilmartin was previously the council’s chairman between 2019 and 2021 and is also a member of Witham Town Council, where she served as mayor in 2021-22.
The local community has been active in supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and the town council appointed an LGBTQ+ ambassador in June 2020. Additionally, a rainbow flag is flown from the Town Hall during Pride Month in June. In contrast to the local community’s efforts, Kilmartin’s comments were viewed as discriminatory and contrary to the values set out in the Equality Act 2010.
- Conservative leaders have dissociated themselves from Kilmartin’s comments and stated that they do not tolerate discrimination based on beliefs, faiths, or any other protected characteristics. The Witham Constituency Conservative Association has also suspended Kilmartin pending a full investigation. Kilmartin has since stood by her comments, though she has stated that shop owners who wish to put up flags are free to do so. She has also announced her plans to step down as a town councillor ahead of local elections in May, a decision she claims was made before the incident.