The Orange Order has criticised the decision taken in Westminster yesterday by a majority of MPs to support a same-sex marriage Bill.

Last night, the UK parliament voted overwhelmingly to pass the second stage of the Bill, which will give same-sex couples the right to marry.

In the statement, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland expressed its dismay at the decision and commended the MPs who voted against the Bill.

Deputy Grand Master, Rev Alistair Smyth criticised the move.

"It is proposed the Church of England and Wales will not be forced to conduct same-sex ceremonies and other religious groupings can choose to opt in or out as suits them,” Rev Smyth said.

“Nevertheless, this will most likely be challenged under equality or human rights legislation in the European Courts. Therefore, we fear the religious safeguards supposedly built in will soon crumble.

"We urge all Christian people to continue to hold true to Christian values and to pray that God in his mercy would turn people to seek the Lord and his ways," he said.

Meanwhile, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) is calling for Ireland to follow Britain's lead and move to change the laws to allow same-sex marriage.

Glen Chair Kieran Rose says he is very hopeful that Ireland will follow Britain's lead.

Last night, British Prime Minister David Cameron hailed a "step forward for our country" after the House of Commons backed the proposals by a big margin of 400 to 175.

However, Labour and Liberal Democrat support masked a massive show of protest by Tories, with 136 taking advantage of a free vote to register opposition.

Just 127 endorsed the proposals at second reading, with 40 more either formally abstaining or not voting.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Welsh Secretary David Jones voted against, while fellow Cabinet minister Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, and Attorney General Dominic Grieve stayed away.

Responding to the result on Twitter, Mr Cameron wrote: "Strong views exist on both sides but I believe MPs voting for gay people being able to marry too, is a step forward for our country."

Labour leader Ed Miliband, who saw 22 of his own MPs rebel against the legislation, said it was a "proud day".

He said: "The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs supported this change to make sure marriage reflects the value we place on long-term, loving relationships whoever you love."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it was a "landmark for equality".

He said: "Tonight's vote shows parliament is very strongly in favour of equal marriage.

"Marriage is about love and commitment, and it should no longer be denied to people just because they are gay."

The result followed more than six hours of stormy debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said the legislation would make England and Wales "a fairer place to live", and insisted religious organisations which did not want to conduct gay marriages had protection.

But Tory MPs lined up to condemn the measures, including the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee Graham Brady, who said he had "serious misgivings" over assurances on religious freedom.

Former defence minister Gerald Howarth said that the Government had no mandate for such a "massive social and cultural change", which was not mentioned in the 2010 Conservative manifesto.