The Church of England has warned its clergy not to register same-sex relationships, following government confirmation that places of worship can host civil partnership ceremonies from next month.

Gay and lesbian couples can, from 5 December, celebrate their big day in religious premises opting into a new scheme. But there is no obligation on religious groups to take part in the initiative.

In a written statement the equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said: “The government is committed to removing the legal barrier to civil partnerships being registered on the religious premises of those faith groups who choose to allow this to happen.”

The law currently bans civil partnership ceremonies on religious premises and the legal form of marriage is currently only available to opposite-sex couples.

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