Sinn Fein seeks DUP support for public consultation on gay marriage Bill
Sinn Fein is to seek Democratic Unionist support for a public consultation on a Bill to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, the party's Finance Minister has said.
A DUP veto is currently preventing a change in the law to allow gay marriage in the region.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK or Ireland to still maintain a ban.
A number of Assembly members are seeking to by-pass the lack of consensus within the DUP/Sinn Fein-led powersharing administration in Belfast by pursuing new legislation through Private Members' Bills.
On Monday, Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir acknowledged those efforts but said he hoped he could still make progress through the Stormont Executive, by securing DUP agreement to launch a public consultation on a Bill from his department.
"I am in favour of marriage equality - that is why in this mandate I am determined to make what progress I can to put marriage equality on the statute book," he said during Assembly question time.
"I would like to proceed by way of an Executive Bill and I will at the earliest opportunity seek Executive agreement to consult on the issue."
Mr O Muilleoir said any legislation would include protection for clergy and church bodies not wanting to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Political attempts to change marriage laws in the region have been defeated five times in the Assembly.
Although a slim majority of MLAs voted in favour of lifting the ban when it was debated for a fifth time last November, the proposal fell when the DUP deployed a controversial voting mechanism - a Petition of Concern - to effectively veto it.
The DUP, which is the largest party in the Assembly, has argued that same-sex couples already have the ability to enter into civil partnerships and insisted the appetite is not there for further change.
Mainstream churches in the region hold that marriage is between a man and a woman.
However, advocates of a change point to a number of recent opinion polls that indicate a clear majority in Northern Ireland do not oppose same-sex marriage.
The DUP later made clear it would not support a public consultation.
A party spokesman said: "The DUP supports the current definition of marriage. Our position remains as outlined during the Assembly election campaign."