The Government will go ahead with a consultation which will look at whether gay couples should be legally allowed to marry.
At present, same-sex couples can be legally joined in a civil partnership but they cannot be married. If the consultation proves favourable, the Government is committed to changing the law.
The move has been welcomed by many, but a substantial number of both equal-rights campaigners and church leaders are uneasy about the motive behind the move to change the law.
The past century has seen considerable development in the area of equal rights for same-sex couples. Half a century ago homosexual relationships were decriminalised, then ten years ago the age of consent for homosexual sex was equalised to match that for straight sex couples. However, much remains to be done on day-to-day discrimination and prejudice which remains considerable.
Equal-rights campaigners have pointed to the fact that the consultation does not address a ban on religious marriages for same-sex couples, nor a prohibition on heterosexual civil partnerships.
The Church of England and the Catholic Church have spoken out to say that any change in the law in the direction proposed would create a false equality. This is on the basis that the church would never acknowledge a same-sex marriage as having the same parity as that of a marriage between persons of the opposite sex.
The Reverend Sharon Ferguson is a campaigner for equality in the area of same-sex relationships. She and her partner and several other couples have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights for a ruling on whether the ban on same-sex marriages violates their human rights.
"Equality is about everybody having the same choices; what we should be having is a situation where gay couples have the choice to opt for a civil partnership, a civil marriage or a religious marriage, and that straight couples have exactly the same thing too," said Rev Ferguson.
The lesbian, gay and bisexual charity, Stonewall, has welcomed the changes. Ben Summerskill is its Chief Executive.
"The steps necessary to extend the legal form of marriage to same-sex couples needn't take much parliamentary time. We look forward to this important measure being included in the Queen's speech on 9 May and being enacted as soon as possible," he said.
Read more on the story (The Guardian)
Find a family solicitor near you (FindLaw)