Culture Secretary Maria Miller says the government will outline its response to this year’s equal marriage consultation on Tuesday (11 December) after being summoned to the Commons to answer an urgent question.
The question was tabled by Conservative MP Edward Leigh, who is opposed to equal marriage rights for gay couples.
In a statement made on Monday afternoon, Mrs Miller told the Commons that the government plans will ensure faith organisations are not forced to conduct same-sex marriages in England and Wales.
Mrs Miller said the chances of this being successfully challenged in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) were “negligible”.
Edward Leigh then questioned David Cameron’s recent decision to publicly announce his support for same-sex marriages in churches and told Mrs Miller that the proposals were not in the consultation.
He suggested that a new consultation exercise should take place instead.
Mrs Miller responded by saying the prime minister “did not say anything new at the weekend” and that he “simply reiterated the government’s position”.
She stressed the PM was outlining a personal view and that MPs should wait until the government issues its official position in response to the consultation on Tuesday.
MPs then proceeded to ask the culture secretary questions related to the policy, with the strongest opposition coming from Tory benches.
Conservative MP David Burrows said the consultation could be seen as a “sham” and Conservative MP Matthew Offord asked if the government will allow a consultation on “polygamy”.
Tory MP Bob Stewart Bob Stewart said the reforms would upset people in “normal marriages”.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary and shadow equalities minister, reiterated Labour’s supports for equal marriage and stated that freedom of religion should mean allowing faith groups to conduct marriage ceremonies for gay couples.
More than 100 Tory MPs are thought to be against the idea.
However, earlier on Monday, former Prime Minister Sir John Major said David Cameron’s enthusiasm for the reform was “genuine”.