A CONTROVERSIAL Christian street preacher was met 'with a big circle of gay love' by members of the LGBT community in Taunton at the weekend.

Michael Overd, who has been arrested and hauled before the courts on a number of occasions, was preaching in Taunton on Saturday, November 23, publicly declaring homosexuality 'an abomination'.

Bridgwater councillor Diogo Rodrigues and one of the founder of Somerset's popular EAT food festival, Bev Milner-Simonds were taken aback by what they heard from Mr Overd and decided to take action.

Cllr Rodrigues gathered a number of rainbow LGBT flags and laid them in 'a big ol circle of gay love' around the street preacher.

Cllr Rodrigues, who runs The Skewer House restaurant in Taunton with his husband Nathan, said: "We were in shock when we walked past the man and heard him say the things he did, and thought 'how can he be allowed to say that?'

"For us as LGBT adults, we like many others have gone through so much pain, rejection and self-doubt as young people, and we would hate for any young person struggling with their identity today to walk past that man and hear that they are not good enough or an abomination.

"We spoke to a police officer who said their hands were tied because of human rights law - but where is our human rights law in being allowed to go about our lives peacefully?

"There is no harm in some peaceful protest, and so that's what we did.

"We gave him a big ol' circle of gay love."

Mrs Milner-Simonds from Burnham, who runs the EAT festivals with her wife Sarah, said: "I have been lucky enough to grow up in a tolerant and inclusive society where legal protections for diversity and inclusive have been made.

"It really upset me to hear such hate and bile on the streets of Taunton in Saturday.

"I have been brought up to call out discrimination and couldn’t walk by when this man shouted his hatred at passers by.

"He said he wasn’t interested in having a debate so I tried to provide a different narrative - one of embracing difference because I feel that makes our communities richer and frankly, a nicer place to live.

"I understand the beat officers who attended have concerns about his tone and whether this is hate speech or not.

"I know I was upset by what he was saying and that my day would have been improved if I hadn’t heard hate, ridicule and excluding language as I went about my work.”

Mr Overd said people wrongly think he hates people in the LGBT community.

"I don't. I am a hate preacher - I hate what God hates," said Mr Overd.

"I'm a fire and brimstone preacher, but I don't take pleasure from it.

"The Bible teaches us that you will go to hell (if you are in a same-sex relationship).

"But you can disagree with a person's lifestyle without hating them.

"I did speak against same-sex marriage, which I think instigated their reaction."

Mr Overd described the reaction to his preaching as "disrespectful towards myself" and accused his verbal attackers of being "rabble rousers" and "bullies" who used "verbally atrocious behaviour".

He said he had not committed any crime during the exchanges and added a police office agreed with that sentiment, but still asked him to stop preaching.