Mike Nesbitt: I caused hurt by not supporting law change on gay marriage - but I do now
Mike Nesbitt has said he "caused hurt" by not supporting the law change on gay marriage in Northern Ireland - but that he does now, as long as churches have "protections" in place.
Previously Mr Nesbitt had said he would vote against same-sex marriage despite saying that UUP members who opposed it would be "on the wrong side of history".
After almost five years in office Mike Nesbitt left an election count in Newtownards to announce his resignation during the snap Assembly election.
He has said he will stay on as an MLA.
On the BBC Stephen Nolan Show on Friday morning, when asked should gay people in Northern Ireland be able to get married, he replied: "Yes they should".
The UUP MLA said he had been "on a journey" which he had now finished which allowed him to reach this position.
He said: "One of the reasons I took a position of not supporting a change in the law was sitting in my own church on a Sunday and thinking how would this congregation feel if there had been a gay marriage here yesterday, on a Saturday afternoon?
"I reckoned a lot of people wouldn't be comfortable but legislation would put in protections, so ministers won't have to conduct a same-sex marriage against conscience and no church or congregation would have to allow it in their church if they're against it.
"If those protections are in, you know what, if two people love each other and that's what they want."
When asked if he had said that while being leader of the UUP - Mr Nesbitt said no.
"No, because I was on a journey. That journey is now complete."
Mr Nesbitt said that he had "caused hurt" by not supporting it sooner.
He said: "There is somebody within my circle of acquaintances who does not live in this country because they are gay and will never come back again.
"I don't want a Northern Ireland where people feel although they are born here they an no longer live here because they are gay."
He added: "If two people love each other and they want to be able to call their relationship a marriage, and nobody is being forced to do something against their will - that's reasonable."
Mr Nesbitt said he never analysed his position in "in terms of votes" but rather whether it was the "right or wrong" thing to do.
He said: "I was causing hurt by not supporting it - particularly young people made very clear to me the hurt I was causing hurt by not supporting the law change.
"(And now?) Yes I will"
Belfast Telegraph Digital