London: Homosexual couples in Britain could be allowed to "marry" in traditional religious ceremonies, a minister has said.
Lynne Featherstone, the equalities minister, said on Friday the government was considering allowing same-sex couples to include key religious elements in civil partnership ceremonies, The Telegraph newspaper reported.
She said that homosexual couples could be permitted to use "religious readings, music and symbols".
This would make civil partnerships practically indistinguishable from traditional weddings as Parliament recently removed the bar on same-sex unions in churches and other places of worship through an amendment to Labour`s Equality Act.
The proposals faced fierce opposition from mainstream Christian leaders who believe marriage can only take place between a man and a woman.
Church of England sources warned that the government could not make such dramatic changes merely by issuing regulations or guidance, as the current Civil Partnership Act prohibits the use of religious services during the registrations.
In 2005, same-sex couples in Britain were allowed for the first time to take part in ceremonies that made them "civil partners".
The ceremony has had to be secular, with no hymns or Bible readings, in order to preserve the definition of religious marriage as the union of a man and a woman.