Government officials in the U.K. will begin evaluating how to legalize marriage equality in the country next spring, the BBC reports.
Discussions over the new legislation were supposed to take place in June, but have since been postponed to March 2012, with a goal of changing the law by 2015 at the latest. While some Conservative Party activists are expected to reject the policy change, leaders in all the major coalition parties are likely to back the legislative change, which would open civil marriages for gay and lesbian couples in England and Wales.
Currently, gay and lesbian couples can enter civil partnerships in the U.K., but marriage is specifically reserved for heterosexual couples. The new law would open up civil marriages to same-sex couples, but would still allow religious bodies to self-govern whether they will recognize marriages for gay and lesbian couples.
While London-based activist Peter Tatchell welcomes the move, he also said the law is discriminatory and should not even require vast debate.
"While no religious body should be forced to perform gay or lesbian marriages, the government should support an end to the legal prohibition on same-sex weddings conducted by faith organizations," Tatchell wrote in The Guardian (U.K.) on Sunday.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone (pictured) told Liberal Democratic Party activists that the government must "not be complacent." She added, "We are a world leader for gay rights, but there is still more we must do."