12/04/2014 18:19 EST | Updated 02/03/2015 05:59 EST

Gay-straight alliance bill put on hold, says Alberta Premier Jim Prentice

Third reading of Bill 10, a highly controversial bill about student-led gay-straight alliances has been put on hold for more consultation, said Premier Jim Prentice Thursday afternoon.

"We will pull back. We will pause," Prentice said in a hastily-arranged news conference. The Alberta premier was out of the province all week while debate raged on social media and in the Alberta legislature over the bill. 

The province’s Progressive Conservative Party introduced the legislation on Monday, which effectively killed a private member’s bill to make GSAs mandatory in schools where students want them. 

An attempt by the PCs to amend the bill last night only inflamed the debate further. 

“Bill 10 has added to, rather than resolved these divisions, and I accept personal responsibility for that as the premier," Prentice said. "I’m most disturbed that our gay and lesbian youth are caught in the middle of a very divisive debate."

Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman said earlier this week that pressure from Catholic school boards compelled the Tories to jettison her Bill 202.

The proposed Tory legislation would have given students the option of appealing to the Court of Queen’s Bench if the school refused permission for a GSA.

Public outrage compelled the government to pass an amendment that sends students to the education minister instead.

Opposition members said the amendment made matters worse by forcing the GSAs off school grounds if the boards object to them.

More to come