Maginness a no-show as Assembly puts issue to the vote
The only MLA missing from yesterday's Assembly vote on same-sex marriage was the SDLP's Alban Maginness.
The North Belfast MP is known to be opposed to legalising gay marriage and had he voted the Assembly would have been deadlocked. But his party policy is in favour of the issue and Mr Maginness would only have been allowed to abstain if he had been present.
Had he defied the party line, however, his single vote would have effectively neutralised the vote at 53 votes each.
In the end the sole MLA who did abstain was Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, who warned at the party's annual conference last month that the party could be on "the wrong side of history" on the issue.
The SDLP last night could give no reason for Mr Maginness' absence and he was not available for comment.
But in the past he has explained: "I personally do not support same-sex marriage for religious and ethical reasons and I have always been open about my views.
"At the same time I also respect those within society who hold a contrary view and I believe the debate over same-sex marriage should be conducted on the basis of mutual respect and tolerance.
"I further believe that this debate should be deepened and a greater consideration of the issues involved be undertaken. I am of the opinion that the Civil Partnership Act grants same sex couples the same legal and equality rights as those in a civil marriage."
The 108th MLA not included in the 53 to 52 count with one abstention is the Speaker, Mitchel McLaughlin.