London: Gay couples in Britain will be allowed to wed in churches by the end of this year, a minister has said.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone has promised that by the end of this year, vicars in churches will be able to apply to have their premises approved for same-sex partnership ceremonies, according to the Daily Mail.
But the Church of England has said it has no intention of opening its own churches for same-sex couples to register or bless their partnerships.
Critics have said "reluctant" churches would be pressured or driven by the courts to offer civil partnerships despite assurances from ministers that no church will be forced to accept them.
Featherstone said the reforms to the civil partnership law were part of the government`s drive for gay equality and to guarantee freedom of religion for everyone.
"The government is committed to removing the legal barrier to civil partnerships being registered on the religious premises of those faith groups who choose to allow this to happen," she said in a statement.
Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced his support to gay marriage at a Tory party conference.
Andrea Minichiello Williams of pressure group Christian Concern said the changes would mean a loss of religious freedom and a threat to clergy who oppose them.
"In no way are there sufficient protections for those who object on the grounds of conscience to providing this service," she said.
"Churches will inevitably be coerced into performing these ceremonies, and those that don`t will be vilified and sued."
"With the Prime Minister also backing plans to introduce full homosexual marriage soon, the church at large needs to wake up very fast, or else church leaders who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman may well lose their liberty to continue acting according to that belief, and may be forced in the future to resign their positions," she said.