The Evening Standard has backed marriage rights for gay couples in religious ceremonies today.

The paper has previously stated its support for marriage equality between gay and straight couples, but is believed to be the first to specifically back the freedom of religions to perform the ceremonies should they so wish.

The announcement in the paper comes after it published an interview with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in which he backed an equal right for gay couples to be married by faiths who choose to perform the ceremonies.

Mr Clegg said: “This is a personal view at the moment, but I think that in exactly the same way that we shouldn’t force any church to conduct gay marriage, we shouldn’t stop any church that wants to conduct gay marriage.”

He said he did not see why a couple who wanted “to show commitment to each other should not be able to do so in a way that is socially recognised as being marriage”.

The Evening Standard said in an editorial today that Mr Clegg had taken “an entirely reasonable approach”.

The paper states: “Most mainstream Christian denominations and orthodox Jews do not support gay marriage; the Anglican and Catholic churches in particular. But there are some denominations which have taken a different stance.

“They include the Quakers, who have a strong liberal tradition, the Unitarians and some liberal Jews. And for them it is a matter of religious liberty to be able to conduct the weddings of gay members of their congregations.

“They should be allowed to do so. There are, correspondingly, many gay people who would like to be able to express their faith as part of their wedding ceremony.”

It added that faiths ought not to be forced to perform ceremonies, adding that Anglican bishops’ suggestion that European human rights law might force them to do “seems purely speculative”.

It concludes: “Mr Clegg is right to seek to extend the scope of the legislation to enable religious institutions to support same-sex marriage as well as to opt out of celebrating these weddings. Liberalism cuts both ways.”