Stormont politicians have ended a debate on new gay equality laws in a stalemate.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson had called for a debate asking for the law to be delayed by the Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, as in the rest of the UK, for further consultation, claiming the regulations will inhibit religious rights.

But discussing the Sexual Orientation Regulations today, which are due in January 2007 in Northern Ireland, the Assembly was tied on the motion.

After a two hour debate, 39 members were for and 39 were against.

The new laws aim to prevent discrimination towards the gay community in the provision of goods and services, but the legislation has caused a backlash from Christian leaders and politicians who believe it will criminalise their faith.

However, the DUP claims that Sinn Fein only managed to get a tie by using a law which allows a party to use the vote of a deceased Assembly member if he or she has not been replaced, the Press Association reports.