David Cameron backs gay marriage in places of worship as it is announced same-sex religious ceremonies WILL go ahead

Prime Minister insists religious groups would not be forced to conduct ceremonies but added he didn't want gay people 'excluded' from marrying in places of worship

Plans for gay couples to be allowed to marry in churches or other religious buildings, as well as secular settings, are to be set out next week by the Coalition Government.

David Cameron’s move delighted campaigners for marriage equality, but it will put him on a collision course with church leaders and many Conservative MPs who insist weddings can only take place between a man and a woman.

Tonight the Prime Minister was warned he would split his party by trying to force through the move, which is backed by the overwhelming majority of Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs.

The Government initially intended to legislate for same-sex marriage in approved premises such as register offices and hotels, but has now significantly widened its proposals.

Under the revised plans, religious institutions would also have the right to marry gay couples, although Whitehall sources stressed that the planned legislation would make explicit that churches would not be forced to conduct same-sex ceremonies against their will.

It is understood the change followed advice by Government lawyers that a blanket ban on religious weddings could be challenged in court, while a system allowing churches or other groups to “opt in” to conduct ceremonies would be legally watertight.

Mr Cameron had told colleagues he wants to press ahead with legislation quickly, arguing the step is a simple matter of equality and fairness. It is expected it will be published by March with a view to becoming law towards the end of 2013.

The Prime Minister said: “I’m a massive supporter of marriage and I don’t want gay people to be excluded from a great institution.

“But let me be absolutely 100 per cent clear – if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn’t want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely must not, be forced to hold it.”

The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church strongly opposed same-sex marriage during recent consultation on the proposals, but the Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews are among groups that are expected to apply to stage ceremonies.

Benjamin Cohen, of Out4Marriage, which is in favour of same-sex weddings, said: “We’re delighted to hear the Government will be legislating to introduce full equal marriage including same-sex marriages solemnised by religious ministers.”

But Colin Hart, campaign director for the Coalition For Marriage, which opposes the move, said: “The decision to press ahead with the profoundly undemocratic proposals to rewrite the traditional meaning of marriage is deeply disappointing and regrettable. What is even more alarming is the PM has gone back on his promises that churches will be protected.”

More than 100 Conservative MPs are expected to oppose same-sex marriage in a free vote on the proposals. Many backbenchers say the move has enraged party activists and constituents.

Stewart Jackson, the MP for Peterborough, predicted Mr Cameron would regret the move. He said: “There is no mandate for this. It was not in our election manifesto. It is being foisted on the Conservative Party.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
An iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland; researchers have been studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and their long-term ramifications for the rest of the world (Getty)
news
Environment
environment
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Jackman bears his claws and loses the plot in X-Men movie 'The Wolverine'
film
Arts and Entertainment
'Knowledge is power': Angelina Jolie has written about her preventive surgery
film
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing