Churches 'could host civil unions'
Published 13/02/2011 | 00:32
Ministers are to set out plans to make changes to the law which could enable same-sex couples to "marry" in church.
Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat equalities minister, is set to publish proposals to lift the ban on civil partnership ceremonies being held in places of worship, the Sunday Telegraph reports.
Such ceremonies could also be permitted to include for the first time religious elements - such as hymns or readings from the Bible - which are currently banned under existing legislation.
While the changes will be welcomed by campaigners for gay and lesbian rights, they are likely to provoke a furious reaction from some church groups and traditionalist Tories.
The Church of England has already said that it will not allow any of its churches to be used for civil partnership ceremonies, although other groups including Quakers, Unitarians, and Liberal Jews are reported to be more sympathetic.
The move follows an amendment to the former Labour government's Equality Act by Lord Alli, a Labour peer, allowing partnership ceremonies to be held in places of worship if the religious groups concerned permit it.
However, before the arrangements can be implemented, ministers are required to hold a new consultation and to change the law on civil partnerships.
A Home Office spokesman said: "The Government is currently considering what the next stage should be for civil partnerships, including how some religious organisations can allow same-sex couples to register their relationship in a religious setting if they wish to do so.
"Ministers have met a range of people and organisations to hear their views on this issue. An announcement will be made in due course."