Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY
The British government on Tuesday announced that the Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned by law from offering same-sex marriages but that other religious organizations would be allowed to "opt-in" to perform gay ceremonies.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller laid out the government's position in a statement to Members of Parliament.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said in the past that he wants churches in England and Wales to be part of the plan to allow gay marriages, but has run into strong opposition from the Church of England and the Roman Catholic church, among other denominations, the BBC reported.
Some religious groups, including Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism, support same-sex marriages, the BBC noted.
The legislation that would include the ban will be published in late January, with the government intending to push it through Parliament by next summer, The Independent reports.
Under this timetable, the first same-sex weddings could take place in early 2014 in those churches that choose to "opt in."
In her statement, Miller said that no religious organization or individual minister could be compelled to marry same-sex couples or allow it to be carried out on their premises.
Miller told the MPs that the Church of England and Church in Wales had "explicitly stated" their opposition to offering same-sex ceremonies, so the government would "explicitly state that it will be illegal for the Churches of England and Wales to marry same-sex couples."
The Independent noted that the government plan would also amend the 2010 Equality Act to to ensure no discrimination claim can be brought against religious organizations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple.
The BBC quoted Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights organization Stonewall, as saying it was pleased that government ministers had expanded their original proposal on same-sex marriages to include the "opt in" alternative for those religious denominations that wish to hold them.
"This is an important matter of religious freedom," he told the BBC.