Labour says it will pressure the coalition government to ensure that marriage equality is enacted.

Responding to the announcement of a March 2012 consultation on how the change can be implemented, shadow equalities minister Yvette Cooper said: “We have called for and support same-sex marriage and we welcome this shift in government policy.

“However too often the government has said one thing on equality and done another – including dragging their feet on civil partnerships on religious premises, halting measures on flexible working and watering down action on equal pay.

“So we will have to see whether this amounts to a real commitment or just an announcement for Lib Dem party conference that will not be implemented in this parliament.

“We will keep the pressure on this government to enact measures like this and make a reality out of their rhetoric.”

Downing Street has said that prime minister David Cameron is “emphatically” in favour of the change, while Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg’s support is on record.

While Labour leader Ed Miliband also backs marriage equality, Labour did not push for the change while in power and the then-prime minister Gordon Brown said the provision of marriage was “intimately bound up with questions of religious freedom”.

Although government support for the issue has been welcomed, gay rights campaigners have questioned why the consultation cannot take place for another six months.

Peter Tatchell has claimed that there is no need for a consultation at all.