Gay couples would be allowed to marry in churches under plans due to be unveiled by the Government next week.
The decision represents a major u-turn on the position set out in a formal Government consultation earlier this year which proposed a blanket ban.
It raises the prospect of a major battle between church and state over the issue as well as a massive backbench rebellion with at least 130 Conservatives set to vote against the proposals.
The plans will be announced by the Culture Secretary Maria Miller next week and a detailed bill is expected to be put before Parliament next month.
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