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20 September 2011

Same-sex marriage

Ministers are to launch a consultation in the spring of next year on opening up civil marriage to same-sex couples.

Announced at the Liberal Democrat conference by equalities minister Lynn Featherstone and supported by Prime Minister David Cameron, the consultation will look at making civil marriage available for gay couples but will not look at religious marriage.

Lynne Featherstone said that the current laws were "simply not fair" with The Daily Mail reporting that David Cameron is to have personally intervened in getting the consultation going and wants the process speeded up as much as possible.

According to the BBC, Ms Featherstone said that while Britain was a world leader in gay rights "there is still more we must do".

Currently, civil partnerships give couples the same legal treatment, but cannot be referred to as marriages. If the move is supported after consultation, a change in the law would be made and civil marriage for same-sex couples could be available before the next general election in 2015.

It would mean that gay couples could have full marriages in registry offices as heterosexual couples currently do.

Calling for the current law to be scrapped immediately and arguing it was against human rights, campaigner Peter Tatchell, said that the government's announced consultation process was a way to deliberately delay a decision on the issue.

Writing in The Guardian, he said: "I am not convinced that there needs to be any consultation at all. The ban on same-sex marriage is homophobic discrimination and should be repealed."

In a statement, the Evangelical Alliance said that while legal injustices could be addressed, marriage is solely between a man and woman and is a major contributor to society, which should be protected and not redefined.

"We support addressing injustices suffered by people who choose gay lifestyles, and would welcome many measures to secure reasonable and fair access to public goods and services," the Alliance stated.

"Marriage has always been, and in reality will always be, solely between a man and a woman, principally though not exclusively for the birth and nurture of children and for conferring generational identity… There is such a thing as society - and marriage is a unique and central part of it…In order to ensure that future generations can enjoy…it, it is worth celebrating and defending by all means possible."

Earlier this year, it was reported in The Telegraph that the Church of England had vowed to defend the Church's traditional stance on marriage against any government moves to introduce homosexual weddings in churches.

In response to the recent announcement on civil partnerships, a spokesman said: "The Church of England's view remains that marriage is a life-long relationship entered into between a man and a woman."

Read the Evangelical Alliance statement on the government's gay marriage proposals