Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone
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Equalities minister: Gay marriage 'a good, loving thing'

15 March 2012 Last updated at 07:29 GMT

A 12-week consultation on allowing gay couples in England and Wales to marry is being launched by the government.

Ministers say it would lift another barrier to equality and give gay partners the same rights as those enjoyed by opposite sex couples.

But the proposal is fiercely opposed by some senior church figures, as well as a number of Conservative MPs.

Speaking to the BBC, Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said that marriage had a special meaning to both straight and gay couples and that the state should "facilitate, encourage and rejoice" in this.