Peers opposed to the registration of civil partnerships in religious premises have secured a debate in the House of Lords that could see the provision scrapped altogether, after warnings that churches could face litigation for turning away gay couples.

This month the equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, said the government was committed to removing the legal barrier to civil partnerships’ registration on the religious premises “of those faith groups who choose to allow this to happen”, adding it would be a “permissive measure” with “no obligation on faith groups to host civil partnerships”. The change to the equality bill, known as the Alli amendment, was passed in March 2010.

But peers, led by Lady O’Cathain, will debate the change on 15 December – 10 days after it comes into effect – in an attempt to scupper it entirely amid continued fears that churches will be under pressure to opt in to the voluntary scheme. If successful it would prevent all religious premises from registering civil partnerships – including those happy to do so.

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