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PM faces backlash over gay weddings
David Cameron is facing a backlash from Tory MPs and religious groups over allowing gay weddings in churches.
The Prime Minister signalled government plans on same-sex marriage to be published next week would go further than expected.
But he stressed that no religious organisation would be forced to hold such ceremonies - and promised a free vote in the Commons.
Mr Cameron said: "I'm a massive supporter of marriage and I don't want gay people to be excluded from a great institution. But let me be absolutely 100% clear, if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn't want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely must not, be forced to hold it.
"That is absolutely clear in the legislation. Also let me make clear, this is a free vote for Members of Parliament but personally I will be supporting it."
A Government spokesman said it was committed to bringing forward plans for equal civil marriage and Culture Secretary Maria Miller would be giving the results of a consultation next week.
The original measures put forward in March envisaged no change to the rules for religious marriages, suggesting that same-sex marriage would be permitted only in approved premises like register offices and hotels. But Whitehall sources said the best way to guarantee "water-tight" protection for opponents was to allow religions to opt in to hosting same-sex ceremonies if they want to.
The Church of England restated its opposition in a statement which said: "The uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and women. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships."
Conservative MPs also condemned Mr Cameron's "arrogance" for trying to push the plans through, and insisted protection could not be guaranteed.
Mark Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin, wrote on Twitter: "Exemptions for places of worship in the same-sex marriage Bill likely to be ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court or the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) within months."
Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson claimed Mr Cameron's party was split in half on the issue and he leadership was in the balance. He said: "I think it is something he will regret. There is no mandate for this. It was not in our election manifesto. It is being foisted on the Conservative Party."