Despite a huge, concerted campaign by some politicians, churches and pressure groups to thwart marriage equality, other faith groups back it.
The United Reformed Church, Quakers, Unitarians, the Metropolitan Community Church and Liberal Judaism are among the smaller denominations and religious communities backing the choice the government is promising over same-sex unions.
Accepting Evangelicals, including senior Baptist the Rev Steve Chalke, the Christian thinktank Ekklesia, Changing Attitude, LGCM and a range of pro-equality Christian groups have also supported the change in the run-up to a parliamentary debate on 5 February 2013 over the UK government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which would permit partners of the same gender in England and Wales to marry in registry offices, or places of worship if faith groups choose to offer this opportunity.
The Scottish government, which has reserved powers over the issue, is also proposing to legislate to open marriage to same-sex couples.
Grassroots Conservatives, tabloid newspapers, anti-equality lobbyists and a number of church leaders have sought to bring intense pressure on the government to draw back from the reform. But Prime Minister David Cameron and his closest allies look determined to press ahead.
In 2009 Quakers in Britain paved the way for the current Bill by deciding to seek a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry in a Quaker meeting. "This week that change begins," they said in a statement issued yesterday.
Recording Clerk, Paul Parker, declared: “Quakers worship in inclusive meetings, where all committed loving relationships should be witnessed and spiritually celebrated as marriage. We believe all are born equal and our love is equal too.
"Quakers decided in 2009 to seek a change in the law to allow all committed relationships to be recognised as of equal worth and so we welcome this law, knowing that it is right for us, and that it will not be imposed on other faith bodies who do not yet share our view.”
Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend nearly 475 Quaker meetings across the country,
Meanwhile, Rabbi Neil has circulated affirming views from Liberal Judaism ahead of today's debate. This includes statements from Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah, and Rabbi Mark Solomon.
In the opposing camp, right-wing thinktank ResPublica has made an intervention in the debate in the form of an essay opposing equal marriage written by Christian theologian Philip Blond and atheist philosopher Roger Scruton.
Marriage: Union for the future or contract for the present attacks the UK government’s proposals, alleging that that allowing same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples to marry undermines Western civilisation. Puzzlingly, they regard same-sex marriage as 'homophobic', and claim that “heterosexual marriage will not survive an extension to homosexuals”.
However, the essay overlooks the actual experience of countries such as Spain, Canada and South Africa, where equal marriage has not led to social collapse, say critics, including Ekklesia associate and commentator Savitri Hensman.
The paper makes some interesting points, but its case is ultimately flawed and unreliable on practical, theological, historical and legal grounds, says Ms Hensman in her response, 'Marriage, union or contract? The flawed ResPublica case against equality', published by Ekklesia today.
Conservatives have been claiming that if the Bill is passed they will lose huge amounts of support, but Tim Montgomerie, editor of the Conservative Home website, and a Christian himself, pointed to an analysis of polls by YouGov showing the measure would cost the party at most one per cent of its total estimated support at the next election -- without taking into account votes it might win as a result of pushing through the measure.
* 'Marriage, union or contract? The flawed ResPublica case against equality', by Savitri Hensman - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17935/
* Marriage: Union for the Future or Contract for the Present, ResPublica, can be viewed and downloaded (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document) at: http://respublica.org.uk/documents/thr_Marriage-%20Union%20for%20the%20f....
* Liberal Judaism comments: http://rabbijanes.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/equal-marriage-liberal-judais...