EAST Lancashire’s churches will not be used for ‘gay marriage’ ceremonies, the Bishop of Blackburn has said.

The Rt Rev Bishop Nicholas Reade hit out at the government for ‘interfering’ with the church’s business after plans were revealed to allow same-sex couples to ‘marry’ in church.

This would involve lifting the ban currently in place.

That move has been welcomed by gay rights campaigners, who said it was ‘long overdue’.

But Bishop Nicholas, whose diocese covers the whole of East Lancashire, said it was not the government’s role to make the change.

He said: “I find it quite hard to understand why the government should think it can interfere with the teachings of the church.

“Church and state are not the same thing, and I am very surprise that without any consultation with the church the government is making such a sweeping statement.”

Bishop Nicholas’ views echo an official statement from the Church of England, which said it would not allow its churches to be used.

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.

Bishop Nicholas said: “There is a very big distinction between a civil partnership and a so-called gay marriage.

"As far as the church is concerned you can only have a marriage between a man and a woman.

"When I marry people in church we talk about the husband and wife, and marriage being the foundation of family life.

“I would not be able to give my consent to a church being used for a gay marriage.”

Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of the Stonewall charity, which has been campaigning for the change, said: “This is a very important step forward for many lesbian and gay people of faith and an important issue of religious freedom.

"It will, we believe, serve as a significant step forward towards extending the legal form of marriage to gay people.”