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

"We will pull back. We will pause," Prentice said in a hastily arranged news conference on Thursday afternoon.

The premier was out of the province all week while debate raged on social media and in the Alberta Legislature over the bill. 

“I try to listen and I’ve certainly heard the voices of Albertans,” Prentice said. “I think it’s important that we get this right.”

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

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

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 an alliance.

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 alliances off school grounds if the boards object to them.

Premier calls debate 'divisive' 

“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."

Laurie Blakeman

Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman started the debate when she introduced a private member's bill last month to make gay-straight alliance clubs mandatory in schools where students want them. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC News )

NDP Leader Rachel Notley believes the government should trash the bill. 

“Rather than pressing pause on Bill 10, the government ought to simply be pressing delete,” she said.

Notley said public outrage shows that Alberta is modern and progressive compared with the governing Tories, who have shown they are out of touch.

“The degree to which they are out of step and out of touch is evidenced by their surprise at the depth and the passion of the opposition to this bill," she said. 

Liberal member of the legislature Laurie Blakeman said earlier this week that pressure from Catholic school boards compelled the Tories to jettison her Bill 202, which would have made the alliances mandatory in schools where students want them. 

Blakeman said she will now ask if her bill can be resurrected.