Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg wants the Government’s gay marriage plans to go much further by allowing gay weddings in churches.
He has been accused of shifting the goal posts and playing politics with marriage to curry favour with homosexual groups.
Mr Clegg’s comments show that religious groups cannot rely upon Government assurances on the issue.
Meanwhile, Nick Clegg has hoisted a gay pride rainbow flag over Whitehall in the run up to a London gay pride event this weekend.
Under current Government plans for gay marriage, same-sex weddings could only take place in civic, not religious, settings.
But Nick Clegg wants the plans to go further. He said: “I think that in exactly the same way that we shouldn’t force any church to conduct gay marriage, we shouldn’t stop any church that wants to conduct gay marriage.
“I don’t see why two individuals who love each other and want to show commitment to each other should not be able to do so in a way that is socially recognised as being marriage.”
But there are legal concerns that once some churches are allowed to perform gay weddings, other churches could be at greater risk of hostile litigation if they refuse.
Colin Hart, Campaign Director of the Coalition for Marriage, said: “This is yet another demonstration, if one was needed, as to why the proposals to rewrite the definition of marriage should be ditched.
“Mr Clegg is shifting the goalposts in a totally transparent attempt to garner support for his party ahead of the world pride festival in London. He is playing politics with marriage.”