There has been a mixed reaction to the announcement by Lagan Valley MLA Trevor Lunn that he has changed his view on same sex marriage.
Mr Lunn had previously voiced his opposition to same sex marriage. However, he has said that a number of things had now changed his mind on the issue, including the recent referendum in the Republic.
“This issue has been contentious between myself and my party for many years, and also between me and the LGBT community,” said Mr Lunn. “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. 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.”
Lisburn Alliance Councillor, Alderman Stephen Martin, welcomed Mr Lunn’s decision. “‘Equal marriage should be a no-brainer. We have many people living in Lisburn and right across Northern Ireland who should have the same right to marry as others in society.
“The recent referendum campaign in the Irish Republic and the US Supreme Court decision demonstrated very powerfully that an open, well tempered and well informed debate about equal marriage can have a transformative effect and is not beyond us here. I wholeheartedly support Trevor’s change of mind.”
Alliance Councillor Aaron McIntyre added: “Equal civil marriage is no threat to anyone else in society. I am proud of the fact that Trevor will cast a ‘yes’ vote on the next equal marriage vote.”
However, Ulster Unionist Councillor Alexander Redpath has slammed Mr Lunn for his u-turn. “I was very impressed when Trevor opposed gay marriage despite serious pressure from his party.
“During the Westminster election Trevor told a room of 50 people at Legacurry Presbyterian Church that he opposed same sex marriage yet days later he abstained on the issue in the Assembly and now he has indicated he will support the move.
“I have no issue with people supporting same sex marriage and indeed many of my party colleagues do. What I take issue with is a politician saying to his electorate that they will do one thing and changing their mind when the election is over.
“I am personally opposed to redefining marriage. I believe gay and lesbian couples have access to substantively the same rights through civil partnerships. This is not a matter for the state to decide. I don’t believe it is the state’s role to fundamentally redefine our understanding of the institution of marriage which I believe is based on the deep rooted Christian heritage of this country.”