LONDON, U.K., September 19, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Britain’s coalition government is aiming to legalize same-sex “marriage” before the next general election in 2015, announced Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone on Saturday.  The move comes after the “personal intervention” of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, reports the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

“I believe that to deny one group of people the same opportunities offered to another is not only discrimination, but is not fair,” said Featherstone.  The government will begin formal consultations on the issue in March.

Same-sex couples in Britain have been able to access comparable benefits to married couples since 2005 when the country legalized same-sex “civil partnerships.”  The government’s latest effort would focus strictly on changing the perennial definition of marriage.

Mike Judge, head of communications for The Christian Institute, warned that the change will have vast implications for British society, particularly in schools, such as have been experienced in every jurisdiction where same-sex “marriage” has been legalized.

“If marriage is redefined for homosexual marriage, that new definition will be the one that the state promotes as the standard,” he said.

“If marriage can be redefined for homosexual marriage, why not redefine it to allow polygamy?” he asked. “Canada has legalised homosexual marriage, and litigation is now underway in one Canadian province to legalise polygamy.”

Despite the government’s pledge, homosexual activists are complaining that the government has not gone far enough.

In a Monday op-ed, famed homosexual activist Peter Tatchell slammed the government for waiting until March. “Why do we need any consultation at all? The ban on same-sex marriage is homophobic discrimination and should be repealed immediately,” he said.

Religious institutions are expected to be barred from performing same-sex “marriages,” just as they are currently barred from performing civil partnerships.  However, the government has announced plans to allow religious groups to perform the partnerships if they choose.

Tatchell said the government’s plan to forbid religious institutions from performing same-sex ‘marriages’ is an “infringement on religious freedom.”  “While no religious body should be forced to perform gay or lesbian marriages, the government should give them the option and let them decide.”

But critics have warned that removing the prohibition on religious civil partnerships will lead to even more pressure on religious institutions who refuse to perform the ceremonies, such as the Catholic Church and the Church of England.  They note that the government itself admitted in its public consultation document on their amendment that it could lead to lawsuits against churches that refuse to perform the unions.

Last month, a Conservative MP urged Prime Minister Cameron to force churches to celebrate same-sex unions if they want to continue to offer civil marriages.  “As long as religious groups can refuse to preside over ceremonies for same-sex couples, there will be inequality,” wrote Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove and Portslade.

“Marriage, although undermined by easy divorce and cohabitation, remains a key building block of society,” said Judge.  “Children do best when they have a mother and a father who are committed to each other. Children need a mother and a father, but homosexual marriage denies this.”