Just been speaking to Judith Cochrane MLA, one of three Alliance Party MLAs unable to bring themselves to be present in The Northern Ireland Assembly yesterday for the Marriage Equality vote. I asked her: “Can you tell me why you were absent from the chamber yesterday for the Equal Marriage vote?” Her response is below.
I am sorry if you feel that I let you down yesterday. I have many friends in the LGBT community both in NI and further afield whom I care about deeply but who accept that I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.
I do however believe that the law should protect people in life-long, same-sex relationships in equivalent ways as it does married people and this is why I supported the Civil Partnership legislation back in 2005. If a Civil Partnership does not currently provide equality of benefits and rights that are available through marriage then amendments to strengthen the Civil Partnership Act would be appropriate.
I appreciate that you do not agree with my view and I respect you for that. You will know that many of us in the Party have wrestled with this over the past few months and some felt able to support the motion yesterday.
Unfortunately I could not come to that position in time for the debate yesterday and therefore, out of respect to my colleagues who were strongly in support of the motion, I did not vote against it.
I joined Alliance because it was the only NI party that I felt at home in – being neither a Nationalist nor a Unionist. I believe that Alliance has so much to offer the people in Northern Ireland and I apologise again that I was unable to reach a position of support for the motion yesterday.