A Tory councillor has pulled out of a mayoral race after he said it was ”disturbing” gay actor Sir Ian McKellen was visiting schools.
Chris Windows has been at the centre of a homophobic row after he made the comments when the actor and gay rights campaigner visited Bristol.
He was accused of homophobia in 2011 after Lord Of The Rings actor McKellen visited schools on behalf of gay rights’ group Stonewall.
Mr Windows, ward councillor for Henbury, Bristol, told a council meeting that he was “unhappy and disturbed” that local schools had been visited by the actor.
Windows has now said he can no longer endure the “unpleasant and slanderous attack” on his character and will not stand as Lord Mayor.
In a statement Mr Windows said: “I was greatly honoured to be chosen by my group to be their nomination for Lord Mayor.
“However, sadly, for a number of reasons, it has become clear to me that I must now withdraw my name from further consideration.
“Over the last few months, my wife and I have been deeply concerned about the campaign – orchestrated by a very vocal minority – to portray me as some kind of controversial figure for the ceremonial and symbolic position of Bristol’s first citizen.
“The unpleasant and slanderous attack upon my character and the pressure this has placed upon my wife is not something I am prepared to continue to expect her to endure.”
He added: “I obviously have taken this decision with a very heavy heart and great personal disappointment.
“For what it is worth, to those who have unfairly judged me or contrived to foment controversy, I must leave it to them to live with this victory on their conscience.”
He had told a debate on the council’s community cohesion strategy, aimed at making people from all walks of life feel welcome in the city: “I would also like to say that I’m unhappy and a little disturbed at the involvement of Stonewall with our local schools and particularly the use of a certain leading actor as a potential role model for our impressionable young people.”
But the councillor, who was suspended while an investigation took place, said his comments had been misconstrued and taken out of context.
Daryn Carter, the director of Bristol Pride who started a petition for Mr Windows’ nomination to be discussed at a full council meeting, denied the claims there had been an attack on Mr Window’s character.
He said many people share concerns “over the homophobic nature” of Mr Windows’ public comments and that he is disappointed the councillor sees these concerns as “slander”.
It has also emerged that Bristol’s Labour councillors withdrew support for Mr Windows’ nomination on Friday.
Councillor Chris Jackson, Labour’s chief whip, said: “We had initially believed that Councillor Windows had genuinely learned after his offensive comments in the council chamber, but regrettably this does not seem to have been the case.”
Tory group leader Councillor Peter Abraham said: “I am genuinely saddened by this turn of events but accept that this is probably the best way forward in the present circumstances.”
“Chris has conducted himself with great dignity throughout this period, and I am very grateful that he has chosen to look past his own personal disappointment and taken action aimed at protecting the Lord Mayoralty from being harmed.”