Ahead of the keynote conference speech from Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone on Saturday afternoon, the Government has announced another step towards making civil marriage available to same-sex couples.
A public consultation on how best to do this will start in March next year, with a strong hint of legislation then following in this Parliament.
“I am delighted to confirm that in March, this Government will begin a formal consultation on equal civil marriage for same-sex couples. This would allow us to make any legislative changes before the end of this Parliament,” said Lynne Featherstone.
Religious marriage will not be covered by the consultation, which goes significantly beyond the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition agreement. That’s a major achievement for Lynne Featherstone and the campaigners on this.
As I told the Huffington Post, “It is good news that we’re taking a big step forward in treating all Brits equally and it is a tribute to Lynne Featherstone’s persistence”.
It’s a promising sign that Conservative sources have already been talking up David Cameron’s support for the measure to the media. They more the talk it up, the more sure it is that he will back the consultation all the way through to a conclusion even in the face of the likely strong opposition from some Conservative MPs.
The consultation is separate from the measures already promised by the end of this year to give religions the option of allowing civil partnerships to take place on their religious premises if they so wish. The first such ceremony is likely to take place early in 2012.