Religious groups demand government goes further on gay marriage

By Georgie Keate

Religious groups keen to hold gay marriages in their churches are meeting with Labour today to organise how to force the government's hand on the issue.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper is organising the conference with representatives from the Church of England, the Quakers, liberal Jews and the Unitarian and
Free Church in Westminster.

"David Cameron was right to support same sex marriage. He must not be deterred now by opposition within his own party and beyond," Cooper said.

"We need the government to move forward with an early debate in parliament rather than letting the issue stall."

The conference intends to stop the government from dragging its feet over the issue – which was not present in the Queen's Speech – and also allow churches the freedom to hold religious same-sex marriages.

Under current plans churches would not be allowed to hold same-sex weddings even if they wanted to.

Supporters are concerned the government will sidestep gay marriage plans altogether in fear of a Tory backbench rebellion.

If churches are not allowed to hold gay weddings, some experts predict the issue reaching the European Court Of Human Rights, where all churches could be forced to hold same-sex marriages against their will.

"If you believe in religious freedom, those organisations that do want to offer same-sex marriage ceremonies should be allowed to do so," Cooper argued.