Gay marriage proposals have been rejected by members of Northern Ireland’s Stormont assembly.
The motion tabled by the Green Party and Sinn Fein stated that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry and have equal rights to straight couples.
However, the bill was dropped after it failed to get the cross-community majority required by a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) petition.
Green Party representative Steven Agnew told the BBC that he was disappointed the proposals were blocked but insisted the ‘narrow defeat’ was a ‘significant step towards gaining marriage equality for the LGBT community in Northern Ireland’.
He added: ‘There are many who argued, both before and during the debate, that the "vast majority of people in Northern Ireland" are against marriage equality; however, today’s debate puts an end to that argument.
‘Close to 50% of elected members of the assembly publicly declared their support for same-sex marriage by voting in favor of this motion today.’
Only three unionist assembly members out of 45 voted in favor of marriage equality after the Protestant church pressured Stormont not to legalize gay marriage.
In the letter, the Presbyterian Church urged the assembly not to ‘demolish a fundamental building block of society’ by voting in support of gay marriage at Stormont.
It added that the issue is ‘not merely an issue of conscience for Christian people and Christian churches, but a very significant one for the whole of society’, claiming it would ‘effectively demolish generations and centuries of societal norms established on Judaeo-Christian values’.
Westminster is currently consulting on whether to allow gay couples in England and Wales to marry, while in Scotland the SNP government has announced plans to bring forward a bill on same-sex marriage.