A Church of England bishop has said it is “careless” to refer to civil partnerships as marriages.

The Right Reverend Jonathan Gledhill, Bishop of Lichfield, also attacked the government for weakening the status of marriage.

“Most of my gay friends would want to distinguish between marriage, which is something that happens for a man and a woman, and a civil partnership, which allows you to be committed together in a kind-of household for life with your gay partner,” he told the BBC.

“I think I’d want to make a distinction. It’s a bit careless to call it marriage, in other words.”

Civil partnerships became legal in December 2005 and give same-sex couples the same rights as straight couples when it comes to benefits and responsibilities such as property, employment and pensions.

18,059 civil partnerships were formed between when the act came into force on 5th December 2005 until the end of 2006.

The term ‘gay marriage’ is often used to describe civil partnerships, despite significant differences.

Partnership ceremonies may not take place in church, for example.

The Right Reverend Gledhill also questioned whether the tax system penalises married couples and is responsible for people remaining single.

“I think it’s just that our legislators have got a bit careless and they’ve not noticed that some of the things that they’ve done have not helped home life in our country,” he said.

“I think the consequence is that an awful lot more people are having to bring up children on their own that would love to have a partner there.”