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Britain introduces same-sex marriage bill

BY JILL LAWLESS, ASSOCIATED PRESS

LONDON -- The British government published a bill to legalize same-sex marriage Friday, and said lawmakers will get their first vote on it in Parliament next month.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill extends marriage to gay couples but excludes clergy in the Church of England - the country's official faith - from having to carry out the ceremonies.

That is intended to placate religious opponents of same-sex unions - though it has not stopped criticism of the bill from religious leaders.

"We feel that marriage is a good thing and we should be supporting more couples to marry and that is exactly what the proposals being brought forward today do," Equalities Minister Maria Miller told BBC radio.

But she said the bill offered "protections ... for churches who feel that this isn't appropriate for their particular beliefs."

The bill is likely to become law because it is supported by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, many members of his Cabinet and most Liberal Democrat and Labour lawmakers.

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