Alliance Party votes to back gay marriage
The Alliance Party has voted in support of legislation to allow gay civil marriage.
Party leader David Ford said the vote followed months of consultation with party members and associations.
He said the proposals included safeguards for religious groups so they would not be forced into allowing their premises to be used.
"Alliance has always stood for a progressive and equal society," Mr Ford said.
"Alliance will oppose any form of discrimination, whether it is based on age, race, disability, gender or sexual orientation.
"There are equality issues in allowing those in a same sex relationship to have only civil partnerships, which is seen as discriminatory.
"The motion also called for protection for faith groups, to ensure they are not forced to act contrary to their beliefs."
The motion read: "That, in line with Alliance's core commitment to equality and to freedom of religion, party council supports the extension of civil marriage provisions to same sex couples, provided that robust protections are provided through legislation to ensure that faith groups and religious celebrants will not be forced to conduct same sex marriage ceremonies or to have them conducted on their premises.
"In recognition of the importance of freedom of religion, Alliance further believes that faith groups which, in conscience, wish to marry same sex couples should not be prevented by the state from doing so.
"We would also support the extension of the authority to solemnise marriages to accredited humanist celebrants, which cannot currently do so."