BELFAST - Northern Ireland's Health Minister resigned on Monday days after police started an investigation into comments he made at an election rally last week linking gay marriage to child abuse.
Jim Wells - a senior member of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), one of the small parties that may hold the balance of power in the United Kingdom after elections next week - said he was leaving his job in order to look after his sick wife.
Wells had come under further pressure over the weekend when a complaint was made to police about comments he made to a lesbian couple about their lifestyle when he was canvassing.
He will still contest the election for the DUP in a strong nationalist constituency. He is not expected to win the seat.
Wells said his initial comments were misrepresented but then apologised and said the remarks did not reflect the DUP's views.
"I am deeply saddened that some of those who represent a different viewpoint from me have attacked my family and me in a deeply personal, nasty and in some cases threatening way," he said in the statement on Monday.
Senior members of the DUP, one of the most socially conservative parties running in the May 7 election, have campaigned against gay marriage and have supported the right of a Belfast bakery to refuse to make a cake with a gay rights slogan.
The DUP holds eight of Northern Ireland's 18 seats in the House of Commons and is hoping to take at least nine in the election. It has said that if no party wins outright, it will try to secure concessions for Northern Ireland from the largest party in exchange for its support.
But DUP leader Peter Robinson has said the party would not make demands on "moral issues".