The Church of England formally objected on Tuesday to the British government's plan to permit gay marriage, according to the Associated Press.
The church said, "To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gain given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships," while reiterating that it understood marriage as union between a woman and a man, according to the AP.
Same-sex couples have been able to enter civil partnerships in the UK since 2005, but Prime Minister David Cameron's government plans to extend the full legal status of marriage to them, according to Reuters.
In addition to the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and some members of Cameron's Conservative party also oppose the plan, saying the government is interfering in religious matters, Reuters reported.
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According to the Guardian, a petition against gay marriage gained more than half a million signatures, whereas a poll by gay rights group Stonewall found that four out of five people under the age of 50 supported the move to legalize gay marriage.
Meanwhile, Downing Street defended the plan to approve gay marriage, saying it was confident that safeguards to prevent religious organizations from being forced to take part in services would not be overturned by European courts, according to the BBC.
Home Secretary Theresa May said, "The government is not going to ask anybody to do anything that is against their conscience," according to the BBC. "We want to ensure that we can put into place a framework that makes sure that those people who don't want to host same-sex marriages are not required to do so."
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The Anglican church expressed concern that European courts could force it to perform same-sex marriages on the grounds of equal rights, whereas the group Stonewall accused the church of scaremongering.
According to Reuters, only about a quarter of weddings in England take place in the Church of England.
Ministers want to approve a new law before the next election in 2015, said Reuters.
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