The Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches has welcomed claims the government will announce its support for religious same-sex marriages next week.

In a statement, Derek McAuley said: “Unitarians look forward to the announcement next week of the government’s response to the equal marriage consultation and are hopeful that this will mean we will be free to conduct same-sex marriages in our places of worship.

“We don’t expect parliament to force other churches or individual clergy, who may disagree with us, to marry same-sex couples if they do not wish to do so. However, we do not consider that our wishes should therefore be set aside”.

Mr McAuley added: “We claim the right to do so in line with our own deeply held convictions about the inherent worth of all individuals and for public recognition of relationships.”

Although the Catholic Church and Church of England is opposed to equal marriage, faith groups such as the Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism support marriage rights for gay couples and have stated they would like to provide the ceremonies.

The original government proposals did not allow for same-sex religious marriages.

Last year, Mr McAuley said maintaining the ban on religious weddings would amount to discrimination.  

On Friday afternoon, David Cameron spoke of his support for allowing faith groups to conduct the ceremonies and said: “I’m a massive supporter of marriage and I don’t want gay people to be excluded from a great institution.

“But let me be absolutely 100% clear, if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn’t want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely must not, be forced to hold it”.