The UK government is to allow gay couples to marry but it will be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to offer same-sex marriages.
Other religious organisations will be able to hold ceremonies if they want to. The plans are due to be introduced before the next election in 2015.
British Equalities Minister, Maria Miller told parliament: “For me extending marriage to same-sex couples will strengthen not weaken this vital institution, (…) We will also enable those religious organisations who wish to conduct same-sex marriages to be able to do so.”
The exclusion of the Anglican Church is a climbdown by the prime minister who is a strong supporter of gay marriage, but backbench Conservatives have mounted strong opposition.
Sharon Ferguson of the Metropolitan Community Church, London expressed her disappointment:
“The Church of England and the Church of Wales to actually be told that it would be illegal for them to even do that, I have so many friends in the Church of England and the Church of Wales, that I know are going to be terribly, terribly disappointed and hurt by that. And I really feel for them.”
Gay couples can already have “civil partnerships”, conferring the same legal rights as marriage, but campaigners say the distinction has given the impression that society considers gay relationships as inferior.