British gay marriage ban could be lifted

Last updated 00:30 24/02/2010

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A ban on gay couples being allowed to marry in church could soon be lifted in Britain.

Senior Anglican bishops have backed plans by politicians to drop the existing ban on civil partnership ceremonies in religious premises under proposed changes to equality laws in March.

The Times newspaper said the removal of the ban on blessings of homosexual couples would allow the registration of civil partnerships in churches, synagogues, mosques and all other religious premises.

The proposed changes to the Equality Bill, which were first debated in the House of Lords in January, are expected to be reintroduced to the House of Lords in early March.

While the changes are expected to be backed by the Conservative party, the Labour government is yet to decide whether to support them.

In a letter to The Times published on Tuesday, a group of Church of England clerics - including the Bishop of Salisbury, the Dean of Southwark and four retired bishops - urged all sides of politics to back the changes.

"Straight couples have the choice between civil marriage and religious marriage," the letter said.

"Gay couples are denied a similar choice. To deny people of faith the opportunity of registering the most important promise of their lives in their willing church or synagogue, according to its liturgy, is plainly discriminatory."

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