The government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales has officially been introduced in the House of Commons by Culture Secretary Maria Miller.
A full debate by MPs and a vote on the proposals will take place on 5 February, with the bill due to be published ahead of that tomorrow.
All religious organisations, including the Church of England and Church in Wales, will be legally barred from marrying same-sex couples unless they choose to opt in.
The Equality Act 2010 is to be amended to ensure that no discrimination claim could be brought against religious organisations or an individual minister for refusing to marry gay couples (or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose).
Canon law – which bans the marriage of same-sex couples – will continue to apply; meaning it would require a change in both primary and Canon law before the Church of England and the Church in Wales would be able to provide marriages for gay couples.
Despite claims that almost half of Tory MPs could vote against the bill, David Cameron is likely to secure a majority in the Commons with the support of Labour and Liberal Democrat members.
The bill would then be subjected to the scrutiny of an MP’s committee before making its way back to the Commons for a third reading – at which point it would then enter the House of Lords.