The British equalities minister has confirmed that gay couples are to be prevented from using European human rights laws to demand a church to marry them.

Maria Miller, the culture secretary and equalities minister has said that new safeguards would prevent couples from using the European Convention on Human Right’s protection for freedom of religion to force a particular church to marry them.

“To make sure there is no element of doubt, we would be legislating to protect the rights of religious institutions to continue to have freedom on this matter,” The Sunday Times reports that Ms Miller said.

“We would achieve that through some very clear and absolute locks on that freedom within primary legislation.”

The statement is an attempt to calm the fears of church leaders who believe that once the Government introduces equal marriage in England and Wales, they would be forced to marry same sex couples against their wishes.

What is interesting is that Ms Miller refers to religious institutions having “freedom on this matter”. Under current civil partnership legislations and the original equal civil marriage proposals, religious ministers are not allowed to perform same sex marriages even if they and their religious institution wishes to hold them.

Out4Marriage said that such a ban on religious same-sex marriages by rabbis and priests that wish to do so would breach European human rights laws on religious freedom.

David Cameron told Out4Marriage campaigners that he personally supported allowing churches and synagogues that have asked to marry gay couples to be allowed to do so.

The Coalition for Marriage, a group that opposes equal marriage questioned Ms Miller’s promise. “The Government’s solution of primary legislation, a lock, as the minister describes it, is a cheque that will bounce,” it said. “No minister can make this pledge because of European legislation and the European courts, unless the minister is planning to come out of the [convention].”