The equalities minister Lynne Featherstone has been reported as saying religious civil ceremonies for same-sex couples could soon become a reality.

According to today’s Telegraph, Ms Featherstone said in a parliamentary answer that the Coaltion Government were proposing that gay couples could be permitted to use “religious readings, music and symbols”.

At today’s Pride parade, Mayor Boris Johnson pledged his support for full gay marriage equality.

Through a recent amendment to Labour’s Equality Act, Parliament quashed the ban on same-sex unions taking place in churches and other places of worship, and this new proposal would put civil partnerships on a level with traditional marriages in practically every sense but name.

This news will come as a pleasant surprise to marriage equality campaigners, who claim that civil partnerships create a two-tier system. However, traditionalists and Christian leaders who see marriage as a union between a man and a woman only, may not take such a broad view.

In response to the proposal, the Right Reverend Michael Langrish, the Bishop of Exeter, was reported as saying: “As some of us warned at the time, the amendment to the Equality Bill has opened an area of unhelpful doubt and confusion. The Church of England will not be allowing use of any of its buildings for civil partnership registrations.”

Civil Partnerships for same-sex couples were first introduced in the UK in 2005. These unions confer similar legal rights to those afforded to married couples, but the law required the events to take place only in registry offices or approved venues like hotels.
The ceremony has had to be secular, with no hymns or Bible readings, in order to preserve the definition of religious marriage i.e. between a man and a woman.

Peter Tatchell said the proposal was “a small step forward [but] it still comes well short of marriage equality.”