U-turn for Trevor Lunn as he backs equality on issue
Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn has backed equal marriage after years of opposition.
The Lagan Valley Assembly Member has voted against gay marriage on three previous occasions and abstained during the most recent Stormont vote in April, despite his party being in support of legalisation.
But following the referendum in the Republic, Mr Lunn said he would support any same-sex marriage motion that came before the Assembly in the future.
He added: "This issue has been contentious between myself and my party for many years, and also between me and the LGBT community. My attitude has been a source of irritation, even though both groups accept, I hope, that I'm not anti-gay.
"I supported civil partnerships and the rights of LGBT people, but the question of marriage has been a step too far for me."
Mr Lunn and his Alliance colleagues Judith Cochrane and Kieran McCarthy were criticised for abstaining from the most recent vote, which was rejected by 49 to 47 after DUP MLAs opposed the motion.
The Alliance MLA said he had sat it out because of comments by the DUP's Jim Wells linking homosexuality and child abuse. He added: "Following the comments, I did not wish to join them in the voting lobby. The suggestion was outrageous, without a shred of evidence and deeply hurtful to a section of our society."
The episode inspired Mr Lunn to look again at his opinions and revise them.
He said: "In recent months, we have had the referendum in the Republic and a very impressive rally here in support of the proposal. I'm in no doubt that a test of public opinion in Northern Ireland would produce a close result at least, and probably a decisive vote in favour.
"I also attended a meeting of the Northern Ireland branch of the British Psychological Society, at which the problems affecting LGBT people in terms of equality were discussed. We cannot ignore their conclusions.
"I feel that the time is right for me to reconsider my position, and I do not feel that Northern Ireland should continue to be the only part of these islands where same-sex marriage on a civil basis should not be allowed.
"I will therefore support the proposal when it inevitably comes before the Assembly during the next term.
"Alliance opposes any attempt to force religious institutions to conduct same-sex ceremonies - a position shared, I think, by many people who are in support of same-sex civil marriage. That will remain my view."