One of Britain's best-known Catholic politicians has sparked outrage after suggesting science may "produce an answer" to homosexuality.
A theater company canceled Ann Widdecombe's one-woman show and politicians accused her of "poisonous bigotry" and "peddling homophobic nonsense," with lesbian Conservative MP Justine Greening tweeting, "We don't need a cure for love."
However, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage robustly defended Widdecombe on British television saying she is "a devout Christian" and "there is nothing wrong with that in my opinion."
Clashing with host Piers Morgan on ITV's Good Morning Britain, Farage said, "She will have views on abortion and on homosexuality that will be very different to the views held by many others."
Responding to Morgan's characterization of Widdecombe's views as "incredibly insensitive" and "offensive" and calls to remove the Catholic politician from his party, Farage said: "I believe in issues of conscience. I believe it very strongly. I will take no stand on this whatsoever. Tolerance needs to be a two-way street."
At the beginning of Pride Month, Widdecombe, 71, was interviewed on Sky TV's Ridge on Sunday after her victory in the European Parliament elections.
In a follow-up question, presenter Niall Paterson cited a 2012 article in which Widdecombe had written: "The unhappy homosexual should, according to gay activists, be denied any chance whatever to investigate any possibility of seeing if he can be helped to become heterosexual."
Paterson told the newly elected Member of European Parliament (MEP): "I don't even need to ask you whether or not that is still your view. The fact that you expressed it means that plenty of people would not want to share a platform with you."
Widdecombe replied: "And I also pointed out that there was a time when we thought it was quite impossible for men to become women and vice versa. The fact that we think it is now quite impossible for people to switch sexuality doesn't mean that science may not yet produce an answer at some stage."
This is where I am misrepresented quite often. I've never claimed that such science already existed; I've never claimed that. I've merely said that if you rule out the possibility of it, you're denying people who are confused about their sexuality or are discontented with it the chances that you do give to people who want to change gender. That's all I've said.
A former Anglican who converted to Catholicism after the Church of England began ordaining women, Widdecombe said in an earlier interview, "For years I had been disillusioned by the Church of England's compromising on everything. The Catholic Church doesn't care if something is unpopular. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, if it's true, it's true, and if it's false, it's false."
Catholic journalist Caroline Farrow told Church Militant:
Throughout the course of her career, Ann Widdecombe has consistently put the defense of traditional Christian and Catholic values above professional career advancement, for which she has earned the respect and admiration of many. It is rare to find such a forthright politician who does not equivocate when it comes to standing up for the Christian faith. Catholics are extremely grateful for the contribution Miss Widdecombe has made and continues to make, to public life.
"The recent row about her historic comments has been massively overblown. It is notable that many of her most vociferous critics have yet to engage with the question posed by Ann Widdecombe, namely, if it is possible to change one's gender, is it also then possible to change one's sexuality?" Farrow explained.
The anti-EU politician, who left Britain's Conservative Party after 55 years to join the newly formed Brexit Party under Nigel Farage, won a thumping victory wiping out both Tories and Labour in the South West of England in May.
Widdecombe's move came days after Annunziata Mary Rees-Mogg, another well-known conservative Catholic, left the Tories for the Brexit Party.
Widdecombe is one of the very few British Catholic politicians to publicly speak out against homosexuality.
In 2017, Catholic politician Jacob Rees-Mogg spoke out against abortion even in cases of rape or incest and publicly upheld the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the sanctity of life and same-sex marriage.
"I'm a Catholic, I take the teaching of the Catholic Church seriously. Marriage is a sacrament and the view of what marriage is taken by the church, not parliament," Rees-Mogg told ITV's Good Morning Britain.