The Archbishop of Canterbury has signaled that he would support any move to change the law to allow opposite-sex couples the right to have a civil partnership instead of a marriage, reports The Daily Telegraph.
The new Archbishop, Justin Welby, made the comment in a meeting with gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell at his Lambeth Palace home, in what is considered the first ever meeting between the head of a major world religion and a prominent gay rights campaigner.
The Archbishop accepts that the issue of gay marriage is one that the Church must engage with, and said afterwards that he wanted an open 'dialogue' with gay and lesbian groups.
After the meeting Mr Tatchell said that they had had an open exchange of views, and that whilst the Archbishop fundamentally disagreed with the principle of legalised marriage between people of the same sex, his mind was not closed on the issue.
Parliament voted in February to legalise gay marriage for the first time, in a historic move that should see new legislation, in the form of the Marriage Bill, introduced well before the next general election in 2015.
As part of the ongoing discussion of this new law, MPs intend to propose an amendment that would allow opposite-sex couples to choose a civil partnership instead of a marriage.
The Government is opposed to such a move, fearing it will undermine marriage by allowing straight couples a choice. However, Mr Tatchell is in favour and said he was 'amazed' that the Archbishop was prepared to show his support in a vote.
"I am amazed he is prepared to support my longstanding campaign to open up civil partnerships for same-sex marriages, he is willing to support equal rights for heterosexual but not gay couples," he said.
The Archbishop is thought to have told Mr Tatchell that he supports the state recognising same-sex relationships, but does not condone the redefinition of marriage.
Archbishop backs law change to allow straight civil partnerships (The Telegraph)