The Alliance Party in Northern Ireland has voted in favour of introducing equal marriage as a party policy. The motion passed, calling for “equal civil marriage” whilst maintaining “robust protection for faith groups”.

In a statement released by the party yesterday, David Ford, Alliance Party leader said the party had considered the issue for several months:

“Alliance has always stood for a progressive and equal society. 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 discrimatory. The motion also called for protection for faith groups, to ensure they are not forced to act contrary to their beliefs.

“Alliance is a democratic party, which is why we undertook a consultation process within our associations which lasted for several months.”

Deputy Leader, Naomi Long MP, said: “After listening to members, as well as from people who have corresponded with me, I believe that we have made the correct decision in supporting the extension of civil marriage provisions to same sex couples provided that robust protections are in place for faith groups who oppose these measures

“For me as a Christian and a liberal, I believe that equality and religious freedom are fundamental to a democratic society and both must be promoted and protected. I believe our motion reflects that reality.

“I acknowledge that there are still those who do not in conscience support same sex civil marriage, which is why our policy did provide robust protection for faith groups so they will not be forced to conduct same sex marriage ceremonies or to have them conducted on their premises.”

In June, Kieran McCarthy, a Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Alliance Party, said that it was ‘unacceptable’ that Edwin Poots, Health Minister had maintained a ban on gay men giving blood in Nortnern Ireland. He said: ”It is shocking that a minister in our executive is sending out this message. Do we really want Northern Ireland to be portrayed like this?”