The UK Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, has been urged to initiate a government review and public consultation on the ban on gay civil marriage.
The call came during a meeting between Ms Featherstone and a range of lesbian and gay rights campaigners, including Peter Tatchell, which took place at the House of Commons on Tuesday 27 July 2010.
The meeting was convened by Ms Featherstone to take soundings on allowing civil partnerships to have a religious content, which is currently prohibited, and on the option of extending civil marriages to same-sex couples.
"The coalition government should undertake a public consultation to determine whether the ban on gay marriage ought to be lifted. It should invite representations from individuals and organisations and, on the basis of the submissions received, decide if the ban should stay or go," said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
"Maintaining the ban without considering public opinion is unreasonable and unjustified," he added.
Ms Featherstone responded by saying that the government needed to take one step at a time, beginning with giving religious bodies the option to hold civil partnerships, if they wished, in accordance with Lord Alli's successful amendment to the Equality Bill earlier this year.
Mr Tatchell replied: "Action on improving civil partnerships and reviewing the ban on gay marriage are not mutually exclusive. They could run together in tandem.
"This is an issue of equality. In a democratic society, we are all supposed to be equal under the law. The bans on same-sex civil marriage and on heterosexual civil partnerships are not equality. They are discrimination. It's anti-democratic," Tatchell declared.
He added: "The government is out of step with popular opinion. Without any major campaign or wider debate, nearly two-thirds of the British public now say that the law on civil marriage should not discriminate."
A Populus poll for the Times newspaper in June 2009 found that 61 per cent of the public believe that: 'Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships.' Only 33 per cent disagreed.