Northern Ireland

Mike Nesbitt still opposes same-sex marriage despite 'wrong side of history' remark

Mike Nesbitt
Image caption In his speech to the Ulster Unionist Party's conference on Saturday, Mike Nesbitt warned members who oppose same-sex marriage they would be "on the wrong side of history"

The UUP leader has said he will still vote against same-sex marriage, despite saying that UUP members who oppose it will be "on the wrong side of history".

Mike Nesbitt made the history remark at his party's annual conference.

He told Monday's BBC's Nolan Show his view has not changed. He said he was "warning" his party same-sex marriage was likely to be introduced regardless.

He said he believed marriage should be "between a man and a woman" but added the issue gives him "sleepless nights".

'Prepare yourselves'

"I am against same sex marriage, but I am challenging myself always on these issues," Mr Nesbitt told the programme.

He said as a mental health campaigner, suicide statistics within the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community gave him "pause" for thought about his own attitude to same-sex marriage.

Northern Ireland is currently the only place in the UK and Ireland that has not legalised same-sex marriage. Stormont MLAs have rejected it four times.

Mr Nesbitt repeated that the UUP has not changed its policy of allowing its members to vote according to their consciences on the issue and said that position would not change while he remained as party leader.

However, he said he believed same-sex marriage could be introduced "through the courts".

"I was just warning our conference that I think that the argument will be lost.

"For those who cannot bring themselves to support same-sex marriage, I think we will be on the wrong side of history and I'm just laying it down as a warning - prepare yourselves," Mr Nesbitt said.

'New generation'

He also told the programme that his own children did not understand why he had "an issue with same-sex marriage".

He said surveys had suggested that the majority of people in Northern Ireland, especially younger people, were in favour of allowing gay couples to marry.

During his speech at the UUP conference on Saturday, Mr Nesbitt said: "Some of us support same-sex marriages, some of us don't and I think it's part of the beauty of the Ulster Unionist Party that we respect each others' positions.

"I'm not going to labour the point today, but to those of us who cannot bring ourselves to support a change in the law, I say this - be aware, we are on the wrong side of history.

"There is a new generation and they simply do not understand why there is a problem."

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