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Britain may allow gay unions in churches

Feb. 13, 2011 at 1:48 PM

LONDON, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Britain's coalition government is moving to permit same-sex partnership ceremonies in churches, an official said.

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone, a Liberal Democrat, is expected to announce this week the lifting of a ban on civil partnerships being conducted in places of worship, The Observer reported.

"The government is currently considering what the next stage should be for civil partnerships, including how some religious organizations can allow same-sex couples the opportunity to register their relationship in a religious setting if they wish to do so," a spokesman for her office said. "Ministers have met a range of people and organizations to hear their views on this issue. An announcement will be made in due course."

The step is likely to be welcomed by religions such as Unitarians, Liberal Jews and Quakers that already perform ceremonies for gay people but opposed by Catholics and traditionalists in the Church of England.

It was not clear how closely civil partnership ceremonies would resemble traditional weddings or whether the term "marriage" would be used.

Civil partnerships, introduced in 2004, provide most of the legal rights of marriage.

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