Same-sex marriage laws planned
The Government is to legislate for same-sex marriages before the next general election.
A public consultation on how to make civil marriage available to same-sex couples is to be launched in March of next year.
The timing means that any necessary legislative changes can be on the Statute Book before the next election, scheduled for May 2015.
The move was announced by Lib Dem equalities minister Lynne Featherstone, who is addressing the opening day of her party's annual conference in Birmingham on Saturday.
"I am delighted to confirm that early next year, this Government will begin a formal consultation on equal civil marriage for same-sex couples," she said. "This would allow us to make any legislative changes before the end of this Parliament.
"We will be working closely with all those who have an interest in the area to understand their views ahead of the formal consultation."
The Lib Dems had been keen to claim credit for the move, which has the strong support of party activists.
However, senior Tories made clear it had been pushed through with the strong backing of David Cameron - despite the likely opposition of many Conservative traditionalists.
A No 10 source hinted that the Prime Minister had also had to overcome opposition within the Government to ensure it went through.
"It is something that was in our equalities manifesto at the election and it is something the PM has been pushing for," the source said.