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Church 'has no right to say who can wed'

The Church does not have the exclusive right to say who can marry, a Government minister has said, as she promised to press ahead with plans for same-sex marriages.

The Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said the Church did not "own" marriage and that the State was entitled to make changes.

With the Government due to begin consultations on the subject next month, she acknowledged the issue provoked strong feelings, but cited the supportive words of the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

"Some believe the Government has no right to change it at all; they want to leave tradition alone," she said. "I want to challenge that view – it is the Government's fundamental job to reflect society and to shape the future. (Marriage) is owned by neither the state nor the Church, as Lord Carey rightly said. So it is owned by the people."

While David Cameron and the Lib Dems strongly support same-sex marriages, there is fierce opposition in the Church and the Tory party.

Lord Carey accused Ms Featherstone of putting an "unwarranted slant" on his words.