A Church of Ireland bishop has supported the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples for the first time.
The Bishop of Cork, Dr Paul Colton, said he hoped the church would one day recognise same-sex marriages in religious ceremonies.
Last month Stormont’s Assembly rejected a motion calling for the controversial measure to be provided for in Northern Ireland.
Dr Colton told BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme: “The events in society are moving very rapidly and the church is not at all up to pace with the debate.
“I certainly support civil same sex marriage.
“I also recognise that the Church of Ireland’s definition of marriage is for itself and I adhere to that discipline... but that is not to say that everyone must be required to take the church of Ireland’s view of marriage.
“Having said that, I’m also among those in the church, and perhaps we’re only a minority - albeit a significant one, that long to see the day when we can have a discussion - as we’ve had discussions over the years on all sorts of other issues - about the nature of marriage. With a view, ultimately, at least to the blessing of same sex couples following civil unions if not to their marriage in church as is happening in other parts of the Anglican communion.”
Last month Stormont rejected same-sex marriage for the third time in 18 months.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which has not passed a law to introduce the provision.
The first gay marriages have recently taken place in England and Wales with Scotland due to follow later this year.