In an e-mail to Lib Dem members, the minister wrote:
I’m so pleased to be announcing today the next step on the road to full marriage equality for same-sex and mixed-sex couples. As many of you will know, this is an issue close to my heart, and so I am delighted that this government is taking action.
Firstly, today we have announced that civil partnership registrations will be able to take place in religious buildings - if a religious organisation wishes to allow this. This will lift the explicit ban on holding civil partnership registrations in religious premises.
Furthermore, the government has recognised the desire to have full and equal civil marriage and partnerships, and will begin working with those who have an interest on how legislation might develop in this area to see how this can be taken forward.
As you’ll probably know, at our conference in Liverpool last year, it became Liberal Democrat policy to push to open both marriage and civil partnerships to both same-sex and mixed-sex couples. So I am thrilled to announce today that we are going to be the first government to look at how to implement this policy.
If you are interested in further updates from the Liberal Democrats on equal marriage, and other LGBT issues, please click here to visit DELGA’s website for more information.
Lynne Featherstone MP
Minister for Equalities
This has been welcomed by gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell who told politics.co.uk that "allowing civil partnership ceremonies to have a religious content and to be held in places of worship is a significant advance for gay and religious freedom. It was petty and authoritarian to ban faith organisations like the Quakers from holding civil partnership ceremonies, when they clearly expressed a wish to do so. The old restrictions forced religious bodies to discriminate against same-sex couples, even when they didn't want to."
Allowing religious organisations the freedom to conduct and bless same-sex ceremonies is hopefully the first step towards the legalisation of gay marriage, ending the unhelpful distinction between marriage and civil partnerships.