David Ford MLA said: “The Alliance Party proposed an amendment supporting equal civil marriage but which also acknowledged the need for constructive and respectful dialogue between elected representatives and all aspects of civic society. We do not need grandstanding on this issue, but instead engagement and mutual respect.
“Our amendment also called for robust legislative protections for faith groups and religious celebrants. These groups should not be forced to carry out such ceremonies or have them carried out on their premises without their permission. This is in line with Alliance Party policy that is in favour of equal civil marriage with protections for faith groups to define, articulate and practise religious marriage as they determine.
“We must find a way to facilitate respectful engagement if we are to progress this issue and create an inclusive and shared society for everyone.
“Alliance have not just restricted ourselves to proposing motions and amendments in the Assembly. As Justice Minister, I launched the report of a project on Hate Crime, jointly run between the Prison Service and NIACRO, noting that hate crime includes homophobic hate crime as well as the better recognised crime on the basis of sectarianism or racism. I will shortly be able to announce the outcome of work being done by one of the staff diversity groups within the Department of Justice, supporting the work of our LGBT staff group. My colleague the Minster for Employment and Learning has awarded a contract to the Rainbow Project to raise awareness of LGB issues within the workplace.
“The Sinn Fein motion didn’t call for the dialogue that we feel is needed to progress this issue or the protection for faith groups in line with our party policy, so when our amendment was rejected, we could not endorse their motion.”