Birmingham: The British government has drawn
up plans to introduce same-sex civil marriages before the next
election in 2015, Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said.
"I am delighted to announce today that in March, this
government will begin a formal consultation on how to
implement equal civil marriage for same-sex couples," she told
her Liberal Democrat party`s annual conference in Birmingham,
central England yesterday.
"And this would allow us to make any legislative changes
necessary by the end of this parliament."
Civil partnerships for same-sex couples were introduced
in Britain in December 2005, giving them similar rights to
married heterosexual couples. However, the partnerships cannot
legally be referred to as marriages.
"I believe that to deny one group of people the same
opportunities offered to another is not only discrimination,
but is not fair," Featherstone said.
The change is expected to win strong support among the
Liberal Democrats, the junior partners in Conservative Prime
Minister David Cameron`s coalition.
But while Cameron is also said to back the plans, he
could face opposition from traditionalist Conservatives, who
believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
Gay rights groups argue that maintaining a separation
between marriage and civil partnerships perpetuates the notion
that same-sex relationships are not as valid as those
involving heterosexual couples.
Although activists welcomed the new proposals, they
questioned the delay in the consultation until March.