The equalities minister is expected to announce plans this week to give gay men and women the same rights to marry as heterosexual couples. It has been reported that same sex couples will be able to hold traditional wedding ceremonies in register offices and civil wedding venues. Religious groups will be able to decide whether to hold gay weddings, although the Church of England is unlikely to allow its churches to be used. The antiquated Marriage Act is to be updated and the legal definition of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman is also to be changed.

If new legislation is introduced, it could make England & Wales at the forefront of the gay rights movement. Currently, countries including Spain, Netherlands, Canada and some US States allow gay marriage. In England and Wales, gay couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships since December 2005, giving civil partners almost identical rights to married couples.

Watch this space for further developments.