Australia becomes the 25th country to recognise same-sex marriage after passing a bill to legalise marriage equality.
Same-sex couples are to be allowed to hold civil partnership ceremonies in churches and other places of worship in England and Wales, but no religious group will be forced to host them.
Currently marriage between people of the same gender is not legal in the UK, but civil partnerships were introduced in 2005 to give couples the same legal protection as if they were married.
Ms Featherstone, a Liberal Democrat MP, said: "The government is advancing equality for LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) people and ensuring freedom of religion for people of all faiths.
"No religious group
will be forced to host a civil partnership registration, but for those who wish to do so this is an important step forward."
The service for civil ceremonies
is different from a church ceremony, and can contain no religious content.
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