THE first gay weddings could take place in England in just over a year's time after the government detailed its plans to legalise same-sex marriages.
But the planned legislation will specifically make it illegal for the Church of England to marry gay couples – even by a member of the clergy who supports the move.
The measures immediately came in for fierce criticism from Conservative traditionalists, who told Maria Miller, the Equalities Minister, that the government had no mandate to drive through such a fundamental social reform.
On the other side of the debate, liberal church figures and Labour MPs were dismayed that the government had so firmly shut the door on the prospect of gay marriages taking place in churches.
The marriage legislation will be published in January, with the intention of pushing it through Parliament by next summer. The first same-sex weddings could take place in early 2014.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "We're now within a whisker of equal marriage rights for all couples – gay or straight." (© Independent News Service)