The Danish government announced today it will introduce laws to allow gay couples to have full religious wedding ceremonies.

Gay couples can already receive blessings at the end of mass in the Danish Lutheran Church, to which 80% of the population belong.

Under new plans, which will be launched in February of next year, couples will be allowed to have full wedding ceremonies.

Danish clergy would be able to refuse to marry gay couples under the proposals.

Church Minister Manu Sareen told the Danish press: “The first same-sex weddings will hopefully become reality in spring 2012.”

Denmark was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex unions, in 1989, and acts of homosexuality were decriminalised in 1933.

In October, Axel Axgil, gay rights pioneer and one of the first two men to enter into a civil union anywhere in the world died, aged 96.

According to the Copenhagen Post, around 69% of the public support gay marriage.