Religious groups in the UK have expressed their support for marriage equality, and have said they will perform same-sex weddings, once the law comes into place, as announced today.

The Unitarian Church, and the Quakers have both come forward to reiterate their support for marriage equality, and to say that they will perform same-sex weddings, as soon as they are able. Other religious institutions, including Liberal Judaism have also said they support marriage equality.

Maria Miller, Culture Secretary, announced the government’s plans to bring forward marriage equality, and that the intention was for religious institutions to be allowed to ‘opt-in’ to performing same-sex marriages, except for the Church of England, and the Church in Wales for which it will be illegal.

Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, released a statement following the government’s announcement. He said:

“We welcome the decision of the Government to bring forward legislation that will allow the holding of same-sex weddings in churches and other religious buildings if that is the wish to the religious body. Unitarians will grasp the opportunity to carry out equal marriage with open arms. As one of our hymns says ‘All Are Welcome Here’.

The Unitarian Church has been blessing same-sex couples for over thirty years, but said this move forward fits with its vision for religious freedom, and for a more tolerant and equal society.

Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain said: “The day the first same-sex couple can marry in their Quaker meeting will be a wonderful day for marriage, and a great day for religious freedom in Britain. Quakers greet the news we can ‘opt in’ to equal marriage with enthusiasm, but await the details of how this will work in practice.”

“Quakers have been discussing sexuality for fifty years. We see God in everyone and believe all committed loving relationships are of equal worth and should be celebrated in the same way. That is why, since 2009, we’ve been asking for the law to allow our same-sex Quaker couples to have a spiritual celebration within their worshipping community; not just a civil partnership which is a legal contract.”

In the government’s announcement this afternoon, which made clear that religious groups would have to “opt-in” to performing same-sex marriages, Ms Miller said:

“Marriage is one of the most important institutions we have in this country. It binds us together, brings long-term commitment and stability, and makes society stronger. Our proposals mean that marriage would be available to everyone. I feel strongly that, if a couple wish to show their love and commitment to each other, the state should not stand in their way”.

Speaking in favour of equal marriage last Friday, David Cameron said he did not want gay couples to be excluded from a “great institution”.

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