The advocates of marriage equality for the UK are celebrating today’s announcement that the government plans to bring forward legislation legalising equal marriage next year.

In a blow to the opponents of equality, the results of this year’s government consultation show 53% are in favour of the introduction of equal marriage.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller has confirmed that full marriage equality will be introduced for gay couples living in England and Wales next year.

Now advocates of equal marriage across the UK are celebrating the steps towards marriage equality. Out4Marriage, the campaign to introduce gay marriage in England and Wales said:

“We are delighted that the Government has agreed with us and is extending plans to allow gay couples to marry in churches and synagogues that wish to hold them. The proposed legislation will turn England and Wales into the one of the fairest and most equal countries to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.

“It is heartening that these historic changes in the law are supported strongly by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. The cross-party alliance to introduce equality demonstrates that this is truly the time to end discrimination of gay people.”

LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Chair, Adrian Trett also made a statement. he said, “The Liberal Democrats were the first major party to adopt marriage equality as policy, and it’s great to now see support across the political spectrum for the Government delivering this. We are particularly pleased that the Government is allowing willing faith organisations to conduct same-sex marriages – this is a decision which should not be taken by Government.”

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.

Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill released a statement following today’s announcement. He said: “We’re delighted about the government’s statement today and welcome the promise to legislate for equal marriage as warmly as on the three previous occasions that this announcement has been made.

“We’re particularly pleased that ministers have been persuaded to extend their original proposal in order to permit same-sex marriages for those religious denominations that wish to hold them. This is an important matter of religious freedom.

“While we fully respect the point of view of those who oppose the government’s plans, our advice to them remains that if you don’t approve of same-sex marriage, then just make sure you don’t get married to someone of the same sex.”

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

Dr Greg Ussher Deputy Chief Executive of METRO, the equality and diversity charity, said:

“We are absolutely delighted at this significant step forward and commend the Government for its commitment to equality. We are particularly pleased that religious institutions that want to perform same sex marriages will be able to do so – this was a significant issue for our 50+ Group”

Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said: “We welcome the decision to legalise same-sex marriage in England and Wales, which will give a boost to similar plans already announced in Scotland. This is a simple matter of equality and religious freedom. LGBT people deserve equal rights under the law including the right to get married to the person they love.

“Equally religious bodies should have the freedom to choose for themselves whether or not they conduct same-sex marriages, currently all religious bodies are wrongly banned from doing so regardless of their beliefs. The UK Government’s proposals are fair, progressive, and backed by a majority of the public and parliament. This is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

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.