Muslim leaders today demanded they should have the same legal exemption to gay marriages as the Church of England amid a growing chorus of condemnation.
The Muslim Council of Britain, which represents 500 mosques and community organisations throughout the country, claimed the law was “utterly discriminatory”.
Officials said they were “appalled” by the legislation, announced by Maria Miller last week, which would allow same-sex couples to marry as early as 2014.
But the Culture Secretary has made it expressly illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to conduct same-sex weddings.
She added that any religious group was allowed to “opt in” and perform ceremonies if they wish.
But the MCB today attacked the laws and insisted that mosques and other religious centres under its control should be exempted.
Farooq Murad, its secretary general, said his organisation had “explicitly” stated its strong opposition and had sought an urgent meeting with Mrs Miller to discuss amending it.
“We find it incredible that while introducing the Bill in the House, Mrs Miller could keep a straight face when offering exemption for the established Church while in the same breath claiming "fairness to be at the heart" of her proposals,” he told the Daily Mail.
“The Muslim Council of Britain along with most other faith groups also made equally strong representation.
“No one in their right mind should accept such a discriminatory law.”
He added: “It should be amended to give exactly the same exemption to all the religions.”
Same-sex marriage has been fast-tracked by David Cameron despite strong opposition within his party and from some religious groups.
Ministers expect the legislation to take up to 12 months to get through Parliament.
Conservative Party MPs, including ministers, will get a free vote amid private fears that at least 40 per cent of Tory MPs oppose the plans. Labor has also granted its backbenchers a free vote, in a surprise move.
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