A meeting of the Alliance Party Council on Saturday reaffirmed the party’s commitments under new legislation on Civil Partnerships.
Speaking during the debate, Party Leader David Ford said: “Issues affecting personal morality cause many problems for politicians in different parties. It is clearly appropriate that all members of a liberal party should be entitled to exercise their own judgement on such issues.
“Much confusion has been caused on this issue by the use of the term ‘gay marriage’. Councillors were perfectly right to point out that that is not what the legislation is about. It is perfectly reasonable to note the distinction between ‘marriage’ and ‘partnership’.
“However, party representatives also have to take account of the fundamental principles of the Alliance Party. In particular, Alliance has opposed discrimination on any grounds since long before current equality legislation became law, and led the way on having hate crimes legislation introduced to Northern Ireland.
“The issue of the legislation itself is not for Councillors to decide. The important thing is that all citizens are treated fairly and equally under the law. Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is no more acceptable than discrimination on grounds of disability, gender, race, religion or political beliefs.
“We are far from the only party with differences on moral issues. We are, however, the only party with a genuine commitment to integration and equality of opportunity as the only means to bring about a truly fair and democratic society in Northern Ireland.”