Speaking after the debate, Naomi Long said, “After a lengthy internal consultation on this issue, Alliance adopted a policy in favour of the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples, provided that robust protections were put in place to protect religious freedom and practice.
“As a Christian and a liberal, I believe that equality and religious freedom are fundamental to a democratic society and that both must be promoted and protected, a position which is reflected in our policy and also in the Bill. I, therefore, supported the Bill at Second Reading stage, which deals with the broad principles of the Bill, as I believe that the Government have set out clearly their intention to provide both equality of access and robust protections for faith groups who do not in conscience support same sex civil marriage, ensuring that they will not be forced to conduct same sex marriage ceremonies or have them conducted on their premises, or be prevented from expressing their views on the matter.
“My continued support for the progress of this legislation will depend on the robustness of the protections which are finally established during its passage through Parliament.
“I am disappointed that the Programme Motion did not allow more time for consideration of these issues, as I believe that this would have been helpful; however, the Bill will now face detailed scrutiny in a Bill Committee where expert witnesses can give evidence that will help make the provisions of the Bill fair, equitable and robust.”