Gay marriages could be allowed in church following a landmark move to lift the ban on civil partnerships being conducted in places of worship.

Liberal Democrat equalities minister Lynne Featherstone is expected to unveil plans to lift the ban, revealing that same-sex wedding ceremonies will be allowed to have a religious element for the first time.

The move is expected to be met with a backlash from mainstream Christian leaders, with the Church of England saying that they will not allow their buildings to be used for civil partnership ceremonies.

But faiths including the Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews support the move.

At present, civil partnership ceremonies have to be secular and cannot be religious in any way.

Last year, the former Labour government added an amendment to the Equalities Act, allowing for civil partnership ceremonies to be held in places of worship if religious groups were in favour.

But this law could not be made legal until legal ministers passed the legislation, a move that will be launched by Featherstone in the next few days.