Alliance Leader David Ford MLA said: “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 discriminatory. 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. I would like to thank our Deputy Leader, Naomi Long who led this process and spent a considerable amount of time and energy in ensuring that we had the correct policy in place on this issue.”
Alliance Deputy Leader Naomi Long MP said: “After listening to Alliance Party 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.”
Motion to Alliance Party Council
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.