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Live stream: Northern Ireland MLAs debate gay marriage for fourth time at Stormont

Sinn Fein motion calls on the Executive to legislate for marriage equality for same sex couples

By Claire Cromie

The Northern Ireland Assembly is discussing gay marriage at Stormont today, after Sinn Fein brought a fourth motion calling on the Executive to legislate for marriage equality.

The debate comes on the same day Health Minister Jim Wells resigned, after he claimed children brought up by gay parents were more likely to be abused.

Caitriona Ruane said there is "no excuse" for his comments, telling the chamber that Sinn Fein "are not here to legislate on the basis of personal belief, but on the basis of equality".

Gay marriage rejected by Northern Ireland Stormont Assembly

The South Down MLA said they wanted to "drown out the bile" put forward by opponents of equal marriage.

She said: "Together we will build a society that includes and embraces."

The DUP will oppose the motion. Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster labelled it an election stunt.

The party's Peter Weir said: "This is not a serious debate. Clearly this motion is an attack on the symbolism of marriage and the institution of marriage and an attempt to redefine marriage.

"My party believes, and I believe also, that marriage is between one man and one woman and once you redefine that you lose the essence of marriage itself."

Almost a year ago to the day - on April 29, 2014 - the Assembly rejected same-sex rights for the third time in 18 months.

Then, Sinn Fein's motion was defeated by 51 votes to 43, a slightly wider margin than when the issue was first debated in late 2012.

It was backed by the SDLP and almost all Alliance MLAs, but opposed by the DUP and most UUP MLAs.

Basil McCrea and John McCallister of NI21 supported the motion along with Green Party MLA Steven Agnew. TUV leader Jim Allister and Ukip's David McNarry voted against it.

Read more:

Gay marriage rejected by Northern Ireland Stormont Assembly 

Politicians do not reflect public opinion on same sex marriage and abortion 

DUP minister Jim Wells quits as gay abuse comments cause huge online backlash

Amnesty attacks NI discrimination 

Jim Wells: PSNI probes gay abuse comments as DUP leader Peter Robinson stands by his man 

 

David Cameron: I will never validate the DUP's stance on gay rights and LGBT issues

Justin McAleese: 'I couldn't tell anyone in Ireland I was gay'

Girls' Brigade 'gay sin' lesson left my daughters upset, says mother 

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