A public consultation on a long-delayed strategy to underpin the rights of LGBT people in Northern Ireland is set to start next week.
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt welcomed the fact a consultation on a draft strategy was now starting, but regretted the delay.
“This is not consulting on the strategy document, this is a pre-consultation phase, it will last 12 weeks, it will inevitably lead to protracted analysis,” he said.
“So I fear we won’t see the strategy itself until 2015 potentially. That tells you, I think, that there are significant differences between the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.”
He refused to be drawn on whether religious concerns among DUP members may explain the six-year delay in the launch of the strategy.
He said: “Marriage is defined, and has been from 1866 in law since Hyde vs Hyde, as a union between a man and a woman” adding that “in terms of equality, in terms of human rights everything that is in marriage is available to a gay couple through civil society, there is no need to redefine marriage to have a tolerant and inclusive society.”
DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots unsuccessfully fought against extending adoption rights to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland and remains in favour of maintaining restrictions on gay men donating blood in the province.