By Georgie Keate
The fight for gay equality won a boost today after Nick Clegg revealed he will push for same-sex marriages in church.
The deputy prime minister told the Evening Standard that religious organisations should have the choice to hold same-sex weddings if they wanted.
"I think that in exactly the same way that we shouldn’t force any church to conduct gay marriage, we shouldn’t stop any church that wants to conduct gay marriage,” he said.
The comment takes the prime minister's promise to legalise gay civil marriages one step further. Under the present consultation on gay marriage there is no option for willing churches to be able to hold same-sex ceremonies.
Yesterday, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper held a conference in Westminster with leaders from the Quakers, Church of England and liberal Jews to push for gay marriages in church.
“I have a very strong sensation that once the dust settles everyone will look back and think, ‘what on earth was the controversy about?'" Clegg said.
"It just seems a perfectly natural thing to do. I don’t think it is anything to get hot under the collar about, or aggressive or polemical.”
However, the topic is still causing deep rifts within religious organisations and Tory MPs.
Canon Chris Sugden of the pressure group Anglican Mainstream said: "If you remove gender from marriage, then nobody ends up married.”