Gay marriage moved a stepped closer to becoming a reality today as the Government announced a long-awaited consultation on changing the law on same-sex civil unions.
However, in a move that will appease conservative faith groups, the Equality Minister, Lynne Featherstone, indicated that ministers would not be seeking the public's views on the right of gay couples to marry in a religious setting. This is likely to disappoint faith groups such as Quakers, Liberal Jews and Unitarians, who would welcome full recognition. The Government also ruled out opening civil partnerships to couples of the opposite sex.
Since 2004, gay couples have only been able to enter into civil partnerships, which critics say do not give their relationships equal standing in law. Changing the law to allow such couples to marry would reframe the historic definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Announcing the consultation, Ms Featherstone, a Liberal Democrat, said the move was part of the Government's commitment to equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.
She said: "I am delighted to confirm that early next year, this government will begin a formal consultation on equal civil marriage for same-sex couples. This would allow us to make any legislative changes before the end of this Parliament."
The gay rights group Stonewall welcomed the news.
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