The Alliance Party in Northern Ireland is set to force its candidates at next year’s Assembly elections to take a pro-gay marriage position.
In a change in policy, the party said support for same-sex marriage will be part of its 2016 election manifesto, and that “all candidates will be expected to adhere to it”.
The introduction of gay marriage in the Province has been rejected at Stormont four times in the last three years.
The Alliance Party’s new stance has been criticised by the Belfast Telegraph.
“In a way, by saying that candidates must adopt an active pro-same-sex marriage line, the party could be discriminating against some of its own members by forcing them to do something that in their heart of hearts they disagree with”, the newspaper said.
An Alliance spokesman has said he expects no opposition to the change in policy, which is set to be discussed at the party council in September.
Of the eight Alliance MLAs, five voted in favour of redefining marriage at Stormont in April, while three abstained.
One of those who abstained, Trevor Lunn, has announced that he will vote in favour of redefining marriage, should the issue return to Stormont.
He said he feels Northern Ireland should be the same as the other parts of the UK where marriage has been redefined.
“I will therefore support the proposal when it inevitably comes before the Assembly during the next term”, he said.
MLAs defeated three previous attempts to introduce gay marriage, in 2012, 2013 and again last year.